* Shanghai auto show to feature 13 world premiere models
* Porsche to launch Panamera in global first
* Chinese carmakers to flood stands with new cars, concepts
By Chang-Ran Kim and Fang Yan
TOKYO/SHANGHAI, April 16 Carmakers are cutting
any costs they can these days, but China is one place where
they won't be skimping as they battle for customers in one of
the world's few remaining growth markets.
Shanghai will host what has become an increasingly
high-profile auto show in China next week, when virtually every
brand will try to impress with glitzy new cars and concepts
while offering a glimpse into the next generation of green
vehicles to showcase their technological advances.
With floor space roughly the size of 30 football fields,
Auto Shanghai 2009 will house 13 world premieres -- mostly from
local brands -- up from five at the show two years ago,
organisers said. Shanghai and Beijing take turns hosting the
main Chinese auto show every year.
One of the highlights will be the unveiling of the Panamera
grand tourer, Porsche's (PSHG_p.DE) fourth model line and its
most important product launch in years.
German rival BMW (BMWG.DE) will also take the wraps off two
brand new models, including the 760Li sedan, the first car to
feature its newly developed eight-speed automatic transmission.
"China is the largest market in Asia," said Wang Xia, a top
official at the China Council for the Promotion of
International Trade, one of the event organisers. "The Shanghai
auto show has every reason to be the most influential auto show
in the region."
That has rung true especially after the exit of virtually
every major non-Japanese automaker from Asia's premier Tokyo
Motor Show, scheduled for late October. [ID:nT178078]
Among the executives attending Shanghai will be General
Motors Corp's (GM.N) newly appointed chief executive, Fritz
Henderson, who is racing against a government-imposed June 1
deadline to hammer out a restructuring plan or face bankruptcy.
CHINA TOPS NOW
Only a few years after surpassing Japan as the world's
second-biggest car market, China has overtaken the United
States in sales so far this year as a deepening recession and
credit crisis keep Americans from showrooms.
While the outlook for Chinese car sales will depend largely
on what other stimulus measures the government offers, analysts
point to a consensus of around a 10 percent rise this year.
"(China) is the only healthy large car market in the world
right now," said Graeme Maxton, a Europe-based auto analyst.
"And that means it's going to get far more attention.
Everything else is collapsing. The only place you can grow is
China," he added, while warning that that would also mean
Research firm J.D. Power has forecast an 8.2 percent fall
in global auto sales this year as demand tanks in the United
States, Japan, Russia and most other markets.
The Shanghai auto show will open to the media on April 20
and to the public for a week from April 22.
For a graphic of Chinese car sales click
PULLING OUT THE STOPS
Chinese car sales grew 10 percent from the year before to a
record in March, extending gains from the previous month
fuelled by the introduction of lower taxes on cars with engines
smaller than 1.6 litres. [ID:nSHA94678]
While no sweeping incentives have been directed towards
hybrids and other fuel-saving cars, many Chinese automakers
will join their foreign rivals in showcasing such advanced
technologies to demonstrate they have the means to compete when
environmental regulations are eventually tightened.
Top Chinese carmaker SAIC Motor (600104.SS) will display an
electric car developed in-house as well as a hybrid version of
its Roewe sedan, expected to hit showrooms next year.
Privately held Chery Automobile, best known for its low-end
QQ model, is also due to display vehicles in the hybrid and
pure electric car segments, which BYD Auto, a unit of battery
maker BYD Co (1211.HK), is keen to dominate.
"It seems that both local and foreign car makers are eager
to tap the potential of clean vehicles even though government
subsidies have not covered private buyers so far," said Zhang
Xin, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities.
Perhaps more staggering is the sheer number of prototypes
that will be on display from some of the Chinese brands.
Hong Kong-listed Geely (0175.HK) will unveil no fewer than
22 new models, mostly under three new upcoming brands: Gleagle,
Emgrand and Shanghai Englon. Thrown into the lot will be a
Formula One concept car.
Geely will also be joined by Chery and Great Wall Motor
(2333.HK), among others, in unveiling mid- to high-end sedans
as local brands attempt to move upmarket.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast)