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Shanghai Motor Show 2005 - Highlights
 What we've seen • Our photos and comment

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The Shanghai Auto Show is held every two years in the neighborhood of Pudong in Shanghai, China. Alternating and competing for attention with the Beijing Auto Show, this year's show demonstrated a huge effort to be an influential and a large-scale international show. Not only have local auto makers stepped up the quality of their stands and presentations (with some catalogues in English) but all the international brands were flexing their muscle. It's still difficult to pick out the concept cars from production models at Chinese auto shows because most of them are just preproduction models, but this year visitors will start to see the development of Chinese conceptual auto design coming to the forefront.

First Automotive Works 'Hong Qi'

First Automotive Works' concept car Hong Qi is a Rolls Royce Phantom look-a-like limousine. Unlike its prestigious competitor, the Hong Qi (Chinese for Red Flag) is ostentatious and kitsch targeting the 'top managers of state' says Chang Bing, Senior Designer of the 15-strong design team at First Auto's design studio in Changchun, north of Beijing.

Massively decorated with chrome and VIP touches there is one particular design element that maybe points a finger towards how the future of design may look for China. For First Auto, being the top car manufacturer in China has its connotations and their concept car Hong Qi was designed to be their flagship vehicle, thus the treatment of the grill is very important. Shaped like a building with the typical ornate roof tops in China, the grill also sports a red flag graphic that flows into the hood of the car. Strength and being established are two important factors when considering who to buy your car from here, in two years time!

Chana 'Yu Feng'

Yu Feng, meaning King Driving Wind, and Lu Feng, meaning Wind in the Land, were two show cars presented by Chana but designed by Italy's I-DEA institute. While the Lu Feng, a 6-7 passenger MPV, will be launched six months from now, the Yu Feng is a five passenger SUV concept car with an undefined future. Both, however, show the appreciation that Chinese companies have for the Italian design expertise but reflect a fond appreciation for French styling. The color schemes are also very fresh and modern with the trendy fizzy orange for the Lu Feng and gray lavender for the Yu Feng.

Chana is also one of the few Chinese companies that is striving to export to the US aside from the usual areas where cars are exported to nowadays, such as South East Asia, Middle East, and Northern Africa. Their new C12 engine is preparing them to be Euro-3 compliant, thus increasing their expected annual export sales from 5,000 to 8,000 units this year.

X-Gene 'X-Coupé'

X-Gene is a Taiwan-founded company which since 2002 has had a fully functional design office in Shanghai. This year is the first time they showed a full size hard model of a coupé concept car. The emphasis here is on style and design, on creating language made in Asia with a deep understanding of the aesthetic values mysteriously embedded in Chinese culture. While these aspects may not be evident to Western eyes and hearts, it is an area where X-Gene can draw on local knowledge, and Ms. Riviera Cheng, the company's director, speaks about this essential difference with passion.

The X-Coupé is a symbol of this understanding, with no hard corners, a united sweep of surfaces that run from front to back without any unnecessary interruptions. Elegant, strong, and simple are key words that she evokes when speaking of the tuning of proportions of this hatchback-styled coupé. By using some of Taiwan's car culture as a building block for creating unique and pure design solutions X-Gene appear to have a winning formula.

Chery 'Wow'

Following the footsteps of the very successful QQ shown last year in Beijing and selling well in China, Chery commissioned another small miracle from Fumia Design Associates, another Turin-based design center. The WOW, a symmetrical named and designed small vehicle, has received a wonderful reception at the show and is hopefully headed for production. As one of the five new cars presented at the Chery stand it represents a conscious effort on behalf of the company to be proactive in its own future. Placing themselves in the competitive hall of foreign cars makers (other Chinese car companies show together separately) they are aware that they are not yet competitive on an international level but they are confident they will be!

WOW's symmetrical (front to rear) design allows the car to have shared parts on left and right, front and back, thus reducing production costs as well as the retail price for the customer. Also being that its symmetry offers a unique and different design choice for the user, it is one of a kind, an exclusivity that appeals very much to Chinese customers.

Changfeng Motors 'LieBao-C1'

This peppy red 4x4 is inspired by animal instincts, presumably that of a cat or feline and aimed at white collar women. The sly light clusters, vibrant color, and robust forms are intended to make people excited about Chanfeng Motors 2005 concept car. Designed wholly in their studios in Shunyi, Beijing, the four seater fun-for-life vehicle shows design influences from Japan yet is studied specifically for the Chinese market.

Following the new trend to downsized and reduced price cars in China in order to appeal to a younger market – rather than the until now standard sedan market – this SUV is compact and sporty appealing to the modern, independent Chinese woman. Under four meters long the four door (a must in China) C1 is funky on the outside but very elegant and feminine on the inside with delicate forms wrapped in a light beige tone… just the right contrast for the modern lady!

Patac 'ALAS' (action life activity sedan) aka 'Chiang Yi'

PATAC (Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center Co., Ltd) is a little known Engineering and Design Center with 30-35 designers near central Shanghai that was established in 1997 to support GM's marketing strategy in China. This year the studio has come into its own by unveiling a totally fresh and intelligent concept car for the Shanghai Auto show called ALAS, action life activity sedan, or Chiang Yi, which means 'happy driving experience' in Chinese. ALAS is 100% designed in China, inspired by a combined East and West design theme (see our extended Shanghai report coming soon). From the inside out ALAS is full of contrasts mostly inspired by RU YI, which is a Chinese kind of swoosh sign, echoed in the roof line and the center console on the inside.

This mini-crossover is a mix of multi-activity vehicle and today's status symbol in China, the sedan. The emphasis was on incorporating what the designers had been immersing themselves in: how to visually express Chinese design and culture on an international level of style and quality. A tough task for designers, Ning Huang, Chenwei Gao, and Elsia Su led by a veteran of corporate automotive design, Mr. Riaz Sherazee.

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© 2005 Car Design News Ltd
Last updated: Sun, Apr 24, 2005