SHANGHAI — China’s flagship auto show is grappling with not only COVID-19 travel restrictions, but growing rival events, such as CES Asia and regional shows in the world’s largest vehicle market.
The annual China auto show, which alternates between Beijing and Shanghai, was set to start Saturday, Sept. 26, in Beijing after being delayed from April. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and China’s strict quarantine rules, few auto company executives will attend from overseas. No global automaker will debut a new product.
Will the China auto show gain more traction next year in Shanghai? It likely will, but that rebound may be limited as other venues in China have become more popular for new-model reveals.
With its massive population of about 1.4 billion people, China has five cities — beyond Beijing and Shanghai — that would like to consider themselves China’s Motor Cities: Changchun, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan and Guangzhou. Each is host to factories of multiple global automakers.
The five cities organize their own auto shows at different times of the year, and those in Guangzhou and Chengdu have gained in stature.
Part of the reason is geography. While Beijing, the nation’s capital, is in the north and Shanghai is on the east coast, Guangzhou is far to the south — near Hong Kong — and Chengdu is in southwest China.
It also has much to do with population. Guangzhou and Chengdu, each with more than 15 million residents, are capitals of two of China’s most populous provinces, Guangdong and Sichuan.
In 2019, Guangdong had a population of more than 115 million, and Sichuan’s population approached 83.8 million, according to official numbers.
Also important is the timing. While the main show is typically held in the spring, Chengdu’s is normally in September, while Guangzhou’s is in November.
This year, the Chengdu show was moved to July to avoid coinciding with the postponed Beijing show.
Their timing, location and demographics have made the Chengdu and Guangzhou shows increasingly popular for product introductions.