SHANGHAI — Increasingly lukewarm about traditional big-city car shows, the world's automakers are lately more enamored with CES, the annual show in Las Vegas where they can bask in the attention of the latest gadgets and trends from Silicon Valley.
That industry strategy is now spreading to China.
Global manufacturers are realizing that what happens in Vegas doesn't need to stay in Vegas. Many now see the flashy consumer expo's fledgling Chinese spinoff, CES Asia, as a clear path into consumer awareness there, too.
Last week, CES Asia opened its doors for a third year in Shanghai with a major automotive contingent vying for the limelight in one of the show's five sprawling halls.
International turnouts included Honda, General Motors, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. NEVS, an electric car startup founded from the ashes of Sweden's defunct Saab brand through Chinese investment, showed two concepts. China's EV hopeful BYD, famed for attracting the affections of investor Warren Buffet, was also on hand.
Automakers say it is now essential to be here because China's sheer size will determine future mobility trends around the globe, thanks to the Chinese government's backing of clean energy vehicles and the Chinese public's ravenous demand for the latest technological gadgetry.
Honda debuted at the show this year, showing an autonomous-driving EV concept commuter called the NeuV, as well as other high-tech treats, such as its Uni-Cub personal mobility device.
"Chinese growth is rapidly expanding," explains Honda Executive Vice President Seiji Kuraishi. "Here at CES, there are many Chinese innovations. We want to use that as window for open innovation."