One of the more interesting elements of the Chinese auto show is the latter word – ‘show’. Vice-Presidents and CEOs rarely give presentations highlighting their new vehicles or the company’s current sales figures, nor do they speak about their goals regarding the anticipated performance of their vehicles in light of the market’s needs.
As I walked around on the second press day, I was blindsided by a press conference at First Auto Works (FAW) that featured a multitude of girls wearing colorful outfits dancing to loud music; one of them was hanging from a trapeze swing hanging from the ceiling! It’s really more Cirque de Soleil than Auto Show…
Buick is one of, if not the, most successful and well-known ‘import’ car brand in China. GM has reaped the rewards of investing heavily in China so clearly, there’s some logic in taking the brand into the Crossover/SUV space, a market that’s set to mushroom in the next few years. Yet this Buick concept confused many observers, including us. It’s not bad, per-se, yet nor, crucially, does it bring anything new or innovative to the SUV concept party. Most worryingly it also fails to feel in any way authentically Buick.
Strip the clumsily-resolved waterfall grille from the front and you’re left with a car that feels like a mixture of design elements we’ve seen from other OEMs recently, particularly Mazda. It’s clear to see that some of the ideas behind its surface treatment were interesting and powerful in their own right, but zoom in on them and there’s an awkaward clash of lines and some difficult surface intersections. In fact, many of these are so sharp and acute that, considered as a whole with its interior (which in theme and colour and trim treatment reminds us of the ULC concept), we actually think this vehicle would fit better under GM’s Cadillac brand. The question is, does this matter for the Chinese market? Thoughts in the comments please.
Anime characters are usually associated with Japan, with seemingly every piece of packaging, advertisement and product endorsed by an avatar.
It’s interesting to note that the trend appears to have taken a hold of the Chinese car industry too. Numerous dashboard toys, mascots and extrovertly human DRGs popped up on many domestic manufacturers’ stands.
Having previously developed super-sophisticated in-car avatars, it’s surprising that Japanese manufacturers haven’t spotted the demand and owned this lucrative space.
It’s been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Well there is certainly a lot of that going on here in China. Though better than in years past, there are still numerous vehicles that are blatent copies of current or former production vehicles on show.
The Changan Chlover isn’t a blatent copy. Instead, it takes a rather successful era of design and attempts to transplant these elements onto a smaller economy car. Somehow I don’t think Marcello Gandini would be flattered…
It’s been around for a while now, but as the opening of doors comes to rely less on a mechanical latch and phyiscal human force, sliver-like door handles (either touch sensitive, or ones that push in to pop out and pull) are becoming increasingly common.
Their flush, reduced-in-size nature creates a much cleaner, uninterrupted body side, and is allowing ever more complex arrays of surface creases, or voluptuously formed surfaces, to shine. Yet the point of this post is to illustrate just how quickly Chinese design is catching the established marques, and how sharply the various brands here now jump on detailing trends. Can you identify which of these door handles belongs to a Chinese car. Clue: technically, there are actually two…
This was one of the better concept cars we saw at the show today. Designed at Volvo’s studios in Goteburg, Sweden, the Concept Universe is a large sedan that has been created digitally, mainly in Alias but also with some ICEM. The visualization was done using Showcase, as were the reviews.
The concept, which measures nearly 4960mm in length but with a 3003mm-long wheelbase, is adorned with surfacing that employs more sculpture than lines. And it is a particularly successful result; especially considering the vehicle was done without the benefit of a clay and without any hand work, save for some minor sanding. The entire design process was done in a scant two months. The only real shortcoming in its design is a flat hood surface – which exterior designer Andreas Nilsson concedes would not have been as such if they had done it in clay – and an upper body that appears fragile, weighed down by the visual mass of the lower.
Overall we were impressed with the Concept Universe and pleased to see that, despite showing some strategy behind the new ownership of the brand, Geely has chosen not to micro-manage and meddle with an already successful design ethos. The soon to be opened Shanghai-based monitoring center, headed by new Vice President of Design for Volvo China, Lars Falk, will surely only serve to further the capabilities of the design team.
Mercedes revealed the Concept A-Class in Shanghai following an introductory presentation that featured Chinese movie star Fan Bing Bing arriving in a CLS and a tortured rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes-Benz” tune performed by US rap star David Banner and UK singers Estelle and Daley. But the automaker could not have predicted that the car claimed to feel “the pulse of a new generation” (according to Dr. Zeitche) would break down before driving onto the stage for its first global debut. In an embarrassing turn of events the concept had to be pushed onto the set by four suits.
Like the concept’s powertrain failure, the exterior design of the A-Class concept is a non-starter. While the original A-Class was an original monovolume concept, this new iteration – with its long hood and two-box silhouette – simply fails to innovate. And while the exterior appears to be near production ready, save for some minor detailing, the interior – inspired by aviation and designed by project manager Jan Kaul and Andreas Frank – is not, though it does showcase a new direction for Mercedes. “It might just make your smart phone look stupid,” said Zeitche.
Symbolic of a new family of compact cars wearing the three-pointed star set to emerge in the next three years, the A-Class will be the second new product intended to “make Mercedes young again” when it launches in 2012. The car has been designed to cater to a demographic that is increasingly buying premium compact cars – a segment that is expected to grow from 5.5 million units to 7.2 million units worldwide, with China leading the sales figures.
Apparently the company sees this demographic as being attracted to dynamic lines that carve across the bodywork – pity the company has chosen to go against the concept of the original A-Class with a design language that is largely derivative of another German automaker, if only a decade too late. The fact that Mercedes has chosen to abandon innovation with their most recent offering in the expanding premium compact car segment seems like a failed opportunity.