April 22nd, 2011
07:42 AM GMT
Beijing, China (CNN) – Hundreds of thousands of Chinese are expected to stream through the Shanghai Auto Show, but walking around the convention center, it feels as though everyone is here at once. Crowds of people are gawking at the new designs and concepts – the eco-friendlier GM Chevy Malibu, the "masculine" VW Beetle, the Geely motorcycle cum mini car "McCar" that can transport your elderly mother in her wheelchair.
This show is running concurrently with the New York Auto Show, but I'm told the difference is the number of people eager to buy their first car. Auto analysts say 3 out of 4 Chinese car customers are first time buyers - and nearly all of them pay in cold, hard cash; No wonder carmakers are racing in to the Chinese market.
Executives here have been playing up the potential growth; however, many have also voiced their concerns about a recent trend. GM, Ford, and PSA Peugeot Citroen have acknowledged the push here by Chinese authorities for indigenous brands.
Philippe Varin, CEO, PSA Peugeot Citroen, said government pressure crept in to the European carmaker's recent discussions to expand in China. He said it's clear that today a critical matter for the Chinese government is to promote local brands. "That is the reason why we have decided to have a local brand," he said at the unveiling of the company's DS5 model.
Doing business in China is getting tougher for international businesses and the big car brands are feeling the pressure. Despite the government's restrictions on foreign carmakers, companies like GM and VW are highly successful here. The reason is that Chinese people like to buy foreign branded cars. This is not the case for many other industries - such as white goods – where Chinese players reign.
Even though international carmakers would earn money off a Chinese brand, there is still some concern that the new demand could curb brand loyalty among Chinese consumers to foreign cars.
Which car brands will come out ahead in China?
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