TTAC Exclusive: The cars, the girls, and the news at the Beijing Motor Show
Media day at the Beijing Auto Show. Had to get up at 6am to get from downtown Beijing to the new fairgrounds. Had to experience my first Beijing rush hour. Usually, I walk to the office. One flight of stairs down. Barely got to the fair on time for the press registration before 9am. Here is Friday’s pictorial.
But hey, TTAC has a fully credentialed correspondent at the Beijing Auto Show. Bet the other blogs have to scrape together whatever they can find on-line. Credentials have a bit of a spelling problem, but it’s a start.
Press day? Whole China must be a member of the Fourth Estate: This place is PACKED. If someone says again that China doesn’t have a free press, I’ll scream. Half of Beijing must have gotten in here for free.
Chang’an must have brought their whole factory. At least the female part of the factory.
Further in the “must have” department, all presenters must have the same speech writer. Or all the speech writers agreed on the same opening line: “China is the world’s largest auto market.”
Slowly, I’ll believe it. Each speech invariably begins with “China is the world’s largest auto market.” Maybe it just dawned on them. My bet is lazy speech writers. I know what I’m talking about. I wrote those speeches in the olden days.
Why is Winfried Vahland still here? Wasn’t he supposed to leave his post as head honcho of Volkswagen China and move to Mladá Boleslav in the Czech Republic to head-up Skoda?
I find his name, reserving a front seat for the Volkswagen press conference. I think, they were nice and invited him back. After all, Skoda is at the show as well.
Then Winfried takes the stage and MC’s the Volkswagen press conference, he opens his speech with “China is the world’s largest auto market.” He presents the Tiguan (yawn) and the CC (yawn, should not get up in the middle of the night.) He presents a hybrid Touareg. They showed it at the New York Auto Show. Zzzzzzzz.
Then finally, Vahland presents the new Phaeton. No news for TTAC readers, you already know. One change: Vahland doesn’t want to sell 2000 Phaetons a year, he wants to sell 3000 a year in China!
Easy for him to say, if he’s still planning to head-up Skoda. His successor will have to do the selling. But he breaks a little sweat after making the projection.
Lamborghini’s presenter is il presidente Stephan Winkelmann. He opens the ceremonies with a “Signori e signore, buon giorno.“ Then he drops into English with a strong German accent. He introduces the luminaries from Volkswagen flawlessly. No wonder: Stefano hails from Berlin, but went to school in Rome. The perfect CEO for an Italian supercar company that is kept as a playground by Audi. (VW’s expensive toybox is Bugatti.) Winkelmann shows two mean cars with an obscene power to weight ratio and a top speed that’s definitely illegal on China’s highways and byways.
One is a special edition Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce model, made exclusively for the Chinese market as a limited edition of only ten copies. Tops out at 342 km/h.
The other is the mint-green Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera. A price is not mentioned. If you had to ask …
Winkelmann mentioned that Lambo sold 80 cars in China last year and hopes to sell more this year. I think he said that “China is the world’s largest auto market.” Everybody says that today.
Hybrids, hybrids, everywhere. Porsche shows their new Cayenne hybrid. The presentation is given by communications director Christian Dau. He’s lively and videogenic. The dour CEO Anton Hunger remains seated.
They premiere a V6 Panamera, let’s call it a budget Panamera for China’s working masses. An AWD Panemera is also shown.
Then they take the clothes off a hybrid beast, the 918 M Spyder that is said to do the Nordschleife in 7 minutes 30. We’ve seen the thing before, but the Chinese have not. The undressing is sexy.
Of course, the presentation at Porsche started with “China is the world’s largest auto market.”
Audi shows a long wheelbase A8, which should sit well with Chinese customers who sit in the rear seat of a driver-driven car. They also introduce a Hybrid A8. The presentation is the best so far. No grumpy German is reading from a teleprompter.
Instead, a good looking Chinese lady leads through the event in Chinese and English. Well done.
Audi shows a few other cars they had shown before. They are very popular with the younger crowd. (This being press days, are we looking at the new motor correspondent of Beijing Youth Daily? We’ll never know.)
I’m getting tired of press conferences. Nauseating de ja vue. Except for the aforementioned Chinese lady, the speeches sound like what I wrote 20 years ago.
I chat up some tech guys from Crewe at the Bentley booth instead. They speak some kind of English only Cammy would understand. Or not … We exchange some insider info.
“Do they still make Bentleys in that whacko glass factory in Dresden?”
“Oh (unintelligible)! Thank god we stopped that (unintelligible). Made maybe 300 (unintelligible) raw bodies there when we ran out of capacity back home.”
“Still cranking out 4000 a year?”
“Maybe (unintelligible) 5000. We (unintelligible) make them. Do they (unintelligible) sell them (unintelligible)? Who knows.”
“Anything new here?”
“Everything is (unintelligible) new. Gussied-up some special China editions. You know how it works.”
At 1:30 is the big Mercedes-Benz-AMG-Maybach press conference. I decide to go. Can’t hang out with my old buddies all day. As we hit hall W4, the Mercedes-Benz-AMG-Maybach booth is overflowing. The rest of Beijing must have obtained press credentials. The booth is mobbed with members of the media who have their cell phone cameras ready. We beat a hasty retreat. No Benz coverage at TTAC due to overcrowding.
We bid adieu to the press conferences and start looking at cars.
Now here is the time when a warning is in order. I know there is a discussion about the pros and cons of booth babes. Sexist exploitation and all that. Must let the car speak for itself, without the distraction of the other sex.
But I’m sorry. This ain’t New York. This is Beijing. It is virtually impossible to photograph a car without a pretty woman in the picture.
Take this Ferrari 599 GTO as an example. See? Impossible without a female in the image.
Or let’s use Mitsuoka as an for instance. I tried every angle …
… and as hard as I may have tried to ban the British-influenced works of the Japanese coachbuilder on my memory chip, there were always women in the picture.
Sometimes, women would pour out their hearts to you. I have no idea what the Chinese says. My assistant says “drive carefully.” But why on hearts? When they left, they gave me a business card and an invitation to see them.
Decided to do some honest reporting. Open questions about the state of Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in China needed clearing up.
According to the press liaison person of Chrysler China, all local production of Jeep and Chrysler products had stopped a while ago. She cannot remember when, it was before her time. She guesses 2005. Says everything is being imported. Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge. Asks me not to mention her name, or take her picture. Worried she got something wrong and wants to avoid trouble “with higher up.” Recommends to take a picture of the lady in the leopard outfit instead. I comply.
The lady in the leopard outfit gives me the internationally agreed-upon hand signal for “bad boy.”
Leopard is definitely en vogue at Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in China. While Jeep had a leopard-adorned lady, Dodge around the corner had a leopard-adorned car with a scantily clad lady.
The Dodge is a crowd-pleaser.
(Note to Jeep and Dodge: It’s the year of the TIGER in China. Not the year of the LEOPARD. Different animals.)
BAIC’s “Jeeps” are in a different hall and of a different color.
A very special version.
Short break from the cars. News of the impending bursting of the real estate bubble have reached Beijing, and people are taking the necessary precautions.
Infiniti brought three desk ladies who do not move.
They stand like this.
… day long.
One of the few cars that could be photographed without females on the hood: A Bertone. A member of the media takes the opportunity to shoot pictures for publications in glossy magazines.
Smaller manufacturers such as China’s Hama compensate the smaller size of their cars with larger complements of women.
They do it consistently.
Curbside Classics, China edition: This 60’s era Citroen Pallas confused the Chinese, and they ignored it. They had a cultural revolution when this car was all the rage in Europe.
The newer Citroens on the other hand are quite fashionable.
Freelance bodyguards prowl the halls in search for business. Beijing is a very safe city. The bodyguards went home as unemployed as they came.
Again, it is impossible to photograph a car without the requisite female.
The CPIT Automotive Sub-Council is under tight guard 24/7.
The health of all participants of the show is likewise of utmost concern.
Two reporters of the “Sanitary Workers” magazine, a must-read in the plumbing business.
The latest homegrown models of SAIC are in the focus of the media.
Great Wall opposed the trend of female exploitation, and choses male exploitation instead.
Then, they quickly change their mind.
(Obligatory TTAC GM slam section)
GM has the overgrown Segway on display. However, on closer inspection, it looks like an inoperable mock-up.
The GM booth is one of the few booths that do without female ornaments. Actually, the Buick booth does without an audience, Must have been lunchtime.
The Cadillac display likewise has a strict BYOBB (bring your own booth babe) policy. This is TTAC’s editorial assistant Echo Hu, helping out. I bet, TTAC is the only major US auto blog that has an editorial assistant in Beijing.
Ever heard of Hawtei automobile? We neither. Anyway, they seem to have the answer to the bubble economy. The long implements are not whips, they are the bows for electric violins.
Imagine, you go to the Detroit Auto Show, and the personal car of the Commander in Chief is on display. The Secret Service would have a coronary. Not so in China. The stately limousine is on display in the FAW booth.
As the first day draws to an end, roll-call of the cars’ companions. All accounted for.
Support and technical personnel is likewise all present, everybody can go home.
PS: When I came home, Japanese Yahoo News had the story that the Beijing Show beat the Tokyo Motor Show, in exhibits and in visitors. On press days. Not open to the public.
Imagine what happens when the other half of Beijing and the rest of China will mob the show from April 27 through May 2. Ah, and the story on Yahoo opened with “China is the world’s largest auto market.”
PPS: We will be there again tomorrow. As we are a customer oriented publication, please discuss what you would like:
– Pictures with the unavoidable females
– If not, a full day of coverage of the GM booth