Volcanic ash clouds and international travel notwithstanding, the Beijing Auto Show kicks off on Friday and is already being hyped up as the biggest event on the international circuit.
Almost 1,000 car models will be on show, including the fastest Ferrari ever built, a new Porsche Panamera and 95 "green" cars. Of the 89 models which will be unveiled for the first time, 75 are coming from domestic manufacturers, including 11 models from Geely alone.
China is now the world’s largest auto market, and the only place where there’s strong growth for carmakers. So it is understandable that everyone is very excited.
But let’s get things in perspective. The people cramming the auto show are not all going to be buyers. Cars are still a luxury in China. I remember the fuss last year when Porsche chose Shanghai as the venue to launch its first new model for decades, the Panamera.
This car, a four-door sports car, has gone on to do very well in Europe and the US, but having looked at its sales in China, the hype seems unjustified. Although there were rumours that the Panamera had flown out of the showroom in China, it turns out that sales were modest. Of the 8,629 cars that Porsche sold in 2009 on mainland China, almost all of them (7,366) were the Cayenne.
Another 1,114 were 911s or Boxsters, meaning that only 149 Panameras out of the 10,000 or so sold worldwide went into the Chinese market (The number was sufficiently low for Porsche not to break it out in their annual run-down of Chinese sales).
So, the next time you hear the commentators hyping up the Beijing Auto Show, remember to take it all with a pinch of salt.
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