VW, Ford unveil SUVs at China auto show under virus controls

SHANGHAI (AP) — Volkswagen, Ford and Chinese brands unveiled new SUVs for China’s growing market on Monday at the Shanghai auto show, the industry’s biggest marketing event in a year overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Automakers are looking to China, the biggest auto market by sales volume and the first major economy to rebound from the pandemic, to propel a sales revival and reverse multibillion-dollar losses.

Auto Shanghai 2021 takes place under anti-virus controls that included holding some news conferences by video link. Few executives from abroad are attending. Reporters were required to undergo virus tests.

The latest models reflect accelerating momentum toward electrification and designing models for Chinese tastes. Automakers rely increasingly on research and design centers in China to create models for global sale.

Volkswagen AG said its all-electric ID.6, available in six- and seven-seat models, aims to create a “lounge on wheels” with semi-automated driving and other technology.

The show also highlights the fast-growing technology and design skills of China’s young but ambitions domestic brands.

Geely Auto, part of the Geely Holding group of brands that includes Sweden’s Volvo Cars, debuted a new flagship SUV, the Xingyue L. The company says self-driving technology enables the Xingyue L to park itself and return from a parking lot to pick up its driver.

General Motors Co. debuted the Envision Plus midsize SUV and the Verano Sedan, among 13 new and refreshed GM models planned this year in China. GM’s Wuling joint venture released the electric Macaron, part of its lower-priced Hong Guang line, in early April.

Ford Motor Co. unveiled a midsize SUV, the EVOS, the first vehicle developed largely by a China-based team under a 2-year-old strategy to use Ford’s Chinese operations more in product development. The automaker also debuted a plug-in hybrid SUV, the Escape, and an all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

China’s first-quarter sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans in China jumped 75.6% over a year earlier, when the ruling Communist Party shut down the economy to fight the virus, according to the China Association of Auto Manufacturers. By contrast, Edmunds.com Inc. forecasts quarterly U.S. sales should rise 8.9% over a year earlier but would be off 8.6% from the final quarter of 2020.

Sales of electric vehicles in China, which accounts for about half of global purchases of the technology, nearly tripled in the first three months of 2021 over a year earlier to 515,000 units, according to CAAC.

Honda Motor Co. unveiled a prototype of an SUV that will be its first electric vehicle sold in China and the Breeze, the first plug-in hybrid from its joint venture with state-owned Chinese brand GAC. Honda plans to release 10 electric models within five years.

Nissan Motor Co. displayed its X-Trail crossover for the China market and its e-POWER electrified power train.

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Auto Shanghai (in Chinese): https://www.autoshanghai.org/

Auto Shanghai (in English): https://www.autoshanghai.org/?lang=en