Domestic producers still catching up with foreign brands

Updated 2017-04-20 09:31:08 Global Times
Visitors test drive cars at the Auto Shanghai 2017, which opened on Wednesday. (Photo: Yang Hui/GT)

Visitors test drive cars at the Auto Shanghai 2017, which opened on Wednesday. (Photo: Yang Hui/GT)

Domestic and foreign automakers are showcasing vehicles that offer intelligent drive technologies, such as speed limit assistance and active steering assistance, at the 17th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition (Auto Shanghai 2017).

The show, which opened on Wednesday, closes on April 28.

The exhibition has attracted more than 1,000 car producers and companies from 18 countries and regions, including almost all the well-known global and domestic car brands. Up to 1,400 complete vehicles will be displayed, with 113 premiere cars and 56 concept cars.

German carmaker Mercedes-Benz unveiled its new series, the S-class cars including the China-exclusive Mercedes-Maybach S680 at Auto Shanghai 2017 to the accompaniment of a musical performance. According to a statement Mercedes-Benz sent to the Global Times on Wednesday, the new S-class cars are all equipped with intelligent technologies, such as enhanced radar and camera systems that can help the vehicles automatically adjust driving speed according to traffic conditions.

"We are approaching the goal of automated driving more purposefully and faster than many people suspect," said Michael Hafner, head of automated driving and active safety at Mercedes Benz.

British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover filled its booth with its full range of cars. An employee of the company told the Global Times that some of the products, such as the freshly launched sport utility vehicle (SUV) Range Rover Velar, are equipped with technologies, including ultrasound sensors, radar systems and laser technology, that allow the car to make adjustments in speed and direction according to different land conditions.

Nigel Harris, president of Changan Ford Automobile Co, said that the company does not only manufacture cars. "It's also a mobility company, and it will provide the necessary resources to head for autonomous vehicles for commercial use," he said.

He told the Global Times on Wednesday that Changan Ford will launch an autonomous vehicle for commercial use by 2021, and "there will be an opportunity" at some time to introduce autonomous vehicles into the Chinese market.

The concept of intelligent driving is not exclusive to overseas brands. At the booth of domestic carmaker Singulato, the Global Times saw a blue concept car called iS6. Equipped with many automation functions such as automatic parking and blind spot detection, the car "almost reaches the highest level of vehicle automation in the world," Wu Yanfei, a public relations representative for Singulato, told the Global Times at the exhibition.

She said that the iS6's intelligent drive technologies were developed partly by Singulato and partly by overseas companies. The iS6 is also the first car the company will put into mass production, she disclosed.

But Gao Jian, an analyst at Shanghai-based consultancy LMC Automotive, told the Global Times Wednesday that China's automatic technologies like smart parking still lag behind those of foreign countries, with almost no companies independently researching and developing related technologies.

Feng Shiming, a car analyst at Menutor Consulting, also told the Global Times on Wednesday that China is a bit behind foreign countries in the self-driving sector in terms of big data collection, software and calibration, regulation support and infrastructure construction. "However, domestic companies can catch up with their foreign counterparts more quickly in autonomous driving than the chase in engines and gear boxes," Feng said.

Another highlight at the show is the continuing fever for electric cars, with many domestic and overseas brands launching concept vehicles.

Audi, for example, presented an electric Sportback concept car, while Denza brought several of its electric cars. One Denza employee told the Global Times on Wednesday that sales of Denza electric cars are good in China's first-tier cities.

Harris also noted that electrification of cars, pushed by the government regardless of the difficulties, will be a trend in the automobile industry. Another trend is SUVs, he said. He disclosed that Changan Ford will launch a hybrid electric vehicle called Mondeo Energi next year. The company also plans to launch a battery-powered SUV within five years. "It's a marriage of the two trends," he noted.

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