Carmakers extend Chinese lineups with SUVs, luxury cars, EVs
No one expects China's vehicle sales to rise 30 percent a year anymore, but it's still the world's largest auto market, and some segments have room to grow.
Judging from the vehicles scheduled to debut at the Beijing auto show -- which will run from April 23 through May 2 -- automakers are expanding their lineups with SUVs, luxury cars, hybrids and a smattering of EVs.
The entry-level market, previously a segment owned by domestic Chinese automakers, also is getting an upgrade. International automakers such as Honda, Nissan and General Motors are unveiling new and affordable subbrands with their Chinese partners.
The bottom line: China's market will become even more competitive as sales growth slows.
With that in mind, the Beijing show -- now one of the automotive world's top events -- will offer a glimpse of the automakers' survival strategies.
Honda's premium brand will showcase the NSX sports car concept that debuted in January at the Detroit show. The new ILX sedan and RDX crossover, which also come to China this year, also will be on display.
Bentley will display its EXP 9 F SUV concept, which debuted last month at the Geneva auto show. The SUV is powered by a twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine, although a turbocharged V-8 also may be available when the vehicle enters production.
BMW has chosen Beijing for the world debut of its long-wheelbase 3-series sedan. The sedan has been stretched more than 4 inches to provide a roomier rear seat. The vehicle will be available in three models: the 335Li, 328Li and 320Li. The cars will be produced at BMW's joint venture plant in Shenyang.
The 6 series Gran Coupe will have its Asian premiere in Beijing. The four-door coupe will be sold in China as the 640i, with an inline six-cylinder engine, or the 650i, with a V-8 engine plus optional all-wheel drive.
The M6 coupe and the X6 crossover also will make their Asian debuts. The M6 is powered by a turbocharged V-8 engine combined with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
General Motors will display modified versions of the Buick Regal and the Buick Excelle XT. German tuning and manufacturing company Irmscher Automobilbau GmbH modified the vehicles.
GM will display two Cadillac concepts -- the Ciel convertible and the ELR plug-in hybrid coupe -- in an effort to raise Cadillac's profile in a segment dominated by German luxury brands.
The Ciel, which debuted last year in Pebble Beach, Calif., is a four-seat convertible powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6. It hints at a possible Cadillac flagship.
The ELR 2+2 coupe is powered by the same hybrid powertrain used in the Chevrolet Volt. It originally debuted as the Cadillac Converj concept at the 2009 Detroit auto show.
GM plans to produce the ELR, but has not announced when it will go on sale or whether it will be sold in China.
GM plans to display three Chevrolet concepts: the Code 130R, Tru 140S and Miray.
The Code 130R, which debuted at the 2012 Detroit auto show, is a four-seat coupe concept built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Cadillac ATS.
The front-wheel-drive Tru 140S coupe concept also debuted at the 2012 Detroit auto show. It is powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged Ecotec engine combined with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Miray, which debuted at the 2011 Seoul auto show, is a futuristic awd two-seater powered by a hybrid powertrain. GM has not divulged production plans for any of the three concepts.
The Chrysler brand will introduce a design concept based on its 300C large sedan. The automaker released teaser photos that revealed embossed leather seats and a redesigned grille. This summer, the 300 will go on sale in China.
PSA Peugeot Citroen will showcase the production version of its Metropolis large sedan concept, which debuted at the Shanghai auto show in 2010.
The production sedan likely will be called the DS9 and will top Citroen's upscale DS model line. PSA's joint venture with Changan Automobile Group will start selling the upscale DS range this spring in China.
Daimler AG will unveil an electric car concept for its Denza marque, a new brand created for its joint venture with BYD Co. The partners plan to launch production in 2013. Daimler did not release more details about its EV, which some media outlets have reported will be built on Daimler's B-class platform.
Fiat S.p.A. will debut the Viaggio compact sedan, a rebadged version of the Dodge Dart, which in turn is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
The Viaggio, which is about the same size as the Ford Focus sedan, is powered by normally aspirated and turbocharged versions of Fiat's 1.4-liter gasoline engine.
It will be built by Fiat's joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group in Changsha.
Fiat also plans to launch a hatchback version of the Viaggio in China. That car could be exported to Europe.
Ford Motor Co. will introduce the Ford Focus and three SUVs. The redesigned Focus, which goes on sale this spring in China, will feature a turbocharged 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine and Ford's Sync voice-activated infotainment system.
Ford did not identify the three SUVs to be displayed, describing them only as "all-new."
Honda will make two global debuts in Beijing -- both concepts designed with the China market in mind. Teaser sketches depict silhouettes of one vehicle that might be a wagon/minivan and the other that could be a crossover or sporty coupe.
Honda also will show hybrid models scheduled to be introduced to China later this year, including the CR-Z, Insight and Fit hybrid.
Chrysler will unveil a concept version of the Jeep Wrangler with design elements intended to mark the Year of the Dragon. The Wrangler features Chinese badging on its quarter panel and wheels, LED-based exterior lighting, plus golden dragon images on the hood and in the interior.
Kia Motors Corp. of Korea will unveil a China-market version of its stretched Carnival multipurpose vehicle, which will be renamed VQ-R. Kia also will display the Track'ster concept -- a three-door awd hatchback based on the Kia Soul -- and the Ray EV.
Mazda Motor Corp. will display the four-door Mazda Shinari concept sports car plus the CX-5 crossover.
The Shinari, which debuted in Milan in 2010, offers a preview of the next-generation Mazda6 mid-sized sedan. The four-door, four-seat Shinari is powered by a 2.0-liter engine.
The imported Mazda CX-5 will go on sale in China this summer. Mazda will start building the crossover in China next year.
Nissan's joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Corp. will unveil the D50, the first model to be sold under the partnership's new Venucia brand. Nissan's joint venture with Dongfeng will build and sell the Venucia D50, which is built on the Nissan Tiida platform.
Porsche will unveil its second-generation Cayenne GTS, a higher-performance version of the Cayenne S. The awd model features a 420-hp engine and an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. The car has a lower ride height and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.
Renault will display its Talisman concept, which it calls a premium sedan. The Talisman is based on the SM7, a sedan built by Renault Samsung in South Korea. The Talisman, which will be sold only in China, will be exported from South Korea.
The Japanese carmaker is expected to unveil several world premieres, including a hybrid concept model developed expressly for China. Toyota says that car is the first hybrid designed by the company's local r&d operations, which were set up in 2010.
• BMW 3 series with long wheelbase
• Buick Regal, Excelle XT (Irmscher versions)
• Citroen DS9
• Fiat Viaggio
• Porsche Cayenne GTS
• Denza EV (Daimler/BYD)
• Honda crossover or sporty coupe
• Honda wagon/minivan
• Renault Talisman
• Toyota hybrid
You can reach David Sedgwick at email@example.com.