Auto China 2012 reveals China’s growing passion for SUVs

While the showrooms are still being cleared of cars and the controversy over scantily clad hostesses has been reduced to a dull murmur, consumers and the motoring industry itself are busy discussing just what trends emerged from Auto China 2012.

The first thing people seemed to notice -- not that anyone should have been surprised -- was the sheer size of the event itself.

As befitting an event servicing what has since 2009 been the world's largest car market, Auto China 2012 saw more than 1,100 models on display -- five times the number featured when the event was first held 22 years ago -- and there were an astonishing 84 local models and 36 foreign models being shown to the public for the very first time.

And, in keeping with this theme, bigger definitely seems to have been better when it came to what exactly was on display, too.

SUVs were all the rage at Auto China 2012, with even the top-end brands Lamborghini, Bentley and Maserati looking to grab some of the attention by unveiling their SUV concept vehicles.

The locals, too, were well represented with both Chang'an and Geely presenting their first-ever forays into the Chinese SUV market, which is already served by the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Other international models on display included the Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5, Buick Encore, and the Citroen C4 Aircross.

"In terms of love for the SUV, China is becoming more like the US," Zeng Zhiling, director of LMC Automotive Asia Pacific Forecasting, told the state-run China Daily newspaper.

It's a good thing the passion for the big motoring beast has emerged, too -- at least for car makers -- as there are plans for 30 new SUVs to hit the Chinese market before the end of the year.

And rumors have been swirling across China's chatrooms that when Nissan announced shortly before the event that it would from 2014 start to produce models from its high-end Infiniti brand in China, the carmaker was really hinting that it would soon be pumping out its FX line of SUVs in the country.

While rising fuel prices and a dipping economy have tempered sales of SUVs in their traditional homeland of the United States, there are no such worries in modern-day China -- and the sales figures reflect that notion.

Last year the mainland Chinese SUV market shifted 1.5 million units, a year-on-year increase of 20 percent.

MS

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