An auto show that keeps expanding... and expanding

Looking for a sign that the Chinese auto market is still a work in progress?

Look no further than the yellow hard hats at the Shanghai auto show.

The exhibit space at the show has already increased from the last time Shanghai hosted the automotive world in 2009. There are 13 exhibit halls where two years ago there were 10. By 2013 there will be four more halls thanks to the efforts of construction crews that are literally expanding the show as this is being written.

Men in hard hats today stood on top of steel structures that already serve as the framework for the exhibit space of tomorrow -- or perhaps next week.

The fact is, the Shanghai organizers already had to turn away media and exhibitors because they are running out of room.

Shanghai: The expansion continues. Photo credit: Jason Stein

For perspective, each exhibit hall is about the size of some Frankfurt halls, which is usually the global yardstick for exhibit space. The Chinese brands dominate nearly three halls. German brands take up most of two more, there is a hall just for super luxury brands (you couldn't get near the Bugatti stand Tuesday) and suppliers are crammed into every corner of the Shanghai space, including a makeshift tent area in the center of the pavilion grounds.

In the German pavilion alone, there are 78 companies today where there were just 13 exhibitors six years ago.

So, the work didn't stop today. A few hundred feet from car unveilings and private meetings (sometimes out in the open, sunny day), the hammers fell and the hard hats moved atop buildings that raced to completion.

Imagine what the next two years will look like.

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