A Toyota new-energy car at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, Apr. 23. (Photo/CFP)
Luxury brands, international celebrities and sexy models may have gotten top billing at the ongoing Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, but environmentally friendly cars arguably became the stars of the show.
Around 80 domestic and foreign new-energy vehicles are being exhibited at the event, which opened to the public on Monday, featuring a total of more than 1,130 vehicles, with 118 debuting.
Visitors were delighted to see an electric vehicle by DENZA, a joint venture between BYD and Diamler, on sale for 255,000 yuan (US$41,400) with a subsidy offered by China's government to promote sales of new energy cars. Though it features Daimler Benz technologies, this car is much cheaper than a Benz.
The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers forecast that 35,000 new-energy cars will be manufactured in China in 2014, doubling the production of 2013.
Wang Zhonghong, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that China's stricter environmental protection and austerity measures are hitting the profits of carmakers but also inspiring readjustments in the automotive industry. In this scenario, new energy vehicles could be the big winners.
Wang said that investment in research and manufacture of new energy vehicles will keep increasing, while limited technology and the purchase cost of such cars are a major challenge for their makers.
Chinese consumers still prefer traditional high-emission vehicles when prices are equivalent, worrying about the short battery life and lack of a charging point infrastructure.
Dong Yang, the association's executive vice chairperson, said that the worries will be eased as momentum builds behind the green car industry, forcing related businesses to keep up with demand.
Chinese electric automaker BYD has started installing charging points in some communities, and the Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation will set charging points every three km along the city's roads by the end of 2014, according to its technical advisor, Chen Zhuo.
According to Wan Xinming, vice president of the China Automotive Engineering Research Institute, large state-owned power companies have started providing support for building charging stations.
However, analysts have said that laggard technologies and lack of established brands and choice in models will hinder this nascent sector, while regulations governing the government's subsidies need to be made more detailed.
A salesperson at the auto show told Xinhua that hybrid vehicles take up the bulk of new energy car sales at present in China.
For example, Chinese bought 513 Toyota Prius models in 2013, and another 319 so far this year, while US citizens and Europeans have bought over 3 million of the popular hybrid cars.
A set of wheels is much more than a means of transport in China as people's social status is often judged by the make and model they drive. No wonder the entire run of six Koenigsegg One:1 premium sports cars were snapped up when they were unveiled at the ongoing Beijing exhibition, despite their price tag of 100 million yuan (US$16 million) each.
China has been the world's largest auto market and producer for five consecutive years, with 22 million vehicles sold last year, surpassing the United States.
The Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, which is held every two years, has grown into one of the industry's most important events.