The China Auto Show highlights the intense electric car competition

SHANGHAI (AP) — Global and Chinese automakers plan to unveil more than a dozen new electric SUVs, sedans and muscle cars this week at the Shanghai auto show, the first full-scale sales event in four years. To develop electric vehicles, self-driving cars and other technologies.

In the technology’s biggest, most crowded market, automakers are racing to release faster, more luxurious, more feature-rich electric vehicles. The ruling Communist Party has invested billions of dollars in subsidies to buy an early lead in the emerging industry. Established global brands face fierce competition from Chinese rivals.

For the first time since 2019, executives from the US, Europe and Japan are flying to the world’s biggest auto show after virus restrictions that have blocked most travel to China were lifted. Auto shows, the industry’s biggest market, have thrived during the pandemic, but only marginally. Global brands were represented by employees of their Chinese operations.

Drivers in the world’s largest auto market bought 5.4 million pure-electric vehicles last year, or two-thirds of the global total of 8 million, and 1.5 million gasoline-electric hybrids. That’s more than a quarter of total vehicle sales of 23.6 million. EV sales are forecast to rise another 30% this year.

“Consumers lost interest in petrol cars. This is a huge challenge for foreign brands to compete in China,” said John Zheng, industry analyst at LMC Automotive. “They should show off their best EV products.”

Beijing is shifting the burden by reducing government support and demanding credits for EV sales to automakers. Manufacturers are pouring billions of dollars into making models that can compete on price and features without subsidies. Many are forming partnerships to share rising costs.

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Auto Shanghai 2023 fills the cavernous Shanghai Exhibition Center, a 1.5 million square meter (16 million square foot) subcontinent, one of the largest buildings in the world.

Volkswagen AG, the country’s best-selling brand, says it plans to showcase 28 models, half of which will be electrified. VW says it will debut its ID.7 limousine, which promises a 700-kilometer (435-mile) range on a single charge.

China’s BYD Auto, which competes with Tesla Inc for the title of world’s biggest-selling electric vehicle maker, says it will debut its U9 supercar from its luxury Yangwang brand. With a sticker price of 1 million yuan ($145,000), the automaker says the U9 will go from zero to 100 kph (60 mph) in two neck-snapping seconds.

China’s auto sales rose to 24.7 million in 2017, but fell to 20.2 million in 2020, after dealerships closed as part of efforts to contain Covid-19. They are recovering, but not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.

The ruling party’s support for EV development is part of plans to gain wealth and global influence by turning China into a profitable developer of technologies.

That campaign has strained relations with Washington and other trading partners, cutting off access to advanced processor chips used by makers of smartphones, electric cars and other high-tech products. China’s own foundries can supply low-cost chips used in many cars but not processors for artificial intelligence and other advanced functions.

Sales of gasoline-electric hybrids and pure-electric vehicles rose 26.2% to 1.6 million in the three months to 2023 from a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Sales of pure electrics rose 14.4% to 1.2 million, while hybrids rose 75.1% to 433,000.

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Tesla and some other brands have cut prices by 5% to 15% starting in January after sales growth slowed, though to still strong levels compared to sluggish U.S. and European markets. That has prompted warnings that the squeeze on an industry with dozens of growing brands could force smaller automakers to consolidate or go out of business.

Along with the US, China is also leading the way in developing self-driving taxis and trucks.

Baidu Inc., better known as a search engine operator, is the most prominent of the developers involved in Geely Group, owner of Volvo Cars, Lotus and Polestar, has announced plans for satellite-connected autonomous vehicles. Network equipment maker Huawei Technologies Ltd. is working on self-driving mining and industrial vehicles.

Baidu and have received China’s first licenses to offer autonomous ride-hailing services in Beijing, with a safety driver to take over in 2022 in the event of an emergency. Alphabet Inc. It comes 18 months after Waymo launched its driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We’re seeing strong support from the government,” said Jason Lowe of Canalys.

At the auto show, Chinese brand Aito plans to showcase its new M5 SUV with autonomous technology developed in collaboration with Huawei Technologies Ltd. The telecom equipment maker has been expanding into automotive and other industries following US sanctions in its feud with Beijing over the technology. Crushed Huawei’s smartphone business.

China’s market is huge, and even brands whose strong selling points roar, embrace electrics, with gasoline-powered machines.

BMW AG says its entire vehicle lineup at Auto Shanghai will be electrified. The German sports luxury brand says it will launch two new models, the i7 M70L and XM Red Label, and debut its M760Le in China.

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Italy’s Maserati, the Stellandis unit known for using high-performance Ferrari engines, plans to launch its first electric SUV and says its electric sports car will make its Asia premiere.

Chinese luxury EV brand NIO Inc., which competes with Tesla at the premium end of the market, plans to showcase its latest SUV, the ES6. It promises a 610-kilometer (380-mile) range on a single charge.

Mercedes Benz plans to launch an electric SUV and two SUVs under its luxury Maybach brand. The company also has EV joint ventures with BYD Auto and Geely Group.

Toyota plans to launch two new models in its bZ range of zero-emission vehicles. Nissan plans to showcase its maxed-out electric convertible concept car. Honda is introducing a new prototype for its China-focused e:N electric brand.

Despite such investments, LMC’s Zeng said Western and Japanese brands need to be more aggressive in EV development to keep up with China’s rapid evolution. He said many take too long to develop models overseas without Chinese input.

“The model they bring to China is three or four years behind the Chinese models in terms of driving range and equipment,” Zheng said. “They should learn to design and test cars in China for China.”

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