The first press day of Auto Shanghai 2019 was the 16th April — just one day before the first press day for the New York Auto Show that ran in parallel, and only just over a month since Geneva Auto Show closed its doors. None-the-less, Shanghai physically dwarfed these old-world shows (only Frankfurt comes close), and had a far larger number of new designs.
We were at the show for both press days, along with several of our local associates, to record and scrutinise the new designs, and to engage with the local design community about these designs — and the wider state of car design in China too!
Shanghai had a huge number of production (or near production) design debuts from domestic car companies, including a few new brands presenting their first designs — such as Lixiang with their One, and Enovate with their ME7. Some more extreme concept cars added spice to the show; most had been presented elsewhere before, but several domestic brands and Audi (with their Al:ME) and Infiniti (with their QS Inspiration concept) made strong international show-car debuts.
The show was dominated by production or near-production design debuts, with a smaller proportion of new concepts car designs reflecting the focus most Chinese brands’ design groups have on realising fast growing (and high turnover) emergent portfolios of next generation cars. The Lixiang One is a good example of the New Age Chinese Electric Design (“NACED”) that we are seeing come through clearly now (see Synopsis below); the Infiniti QS Inspiration concept is a fine design that closely follows debuts in North America and Europe to underscore how important China is for premium brands, and the Jihe A / ‘Geometry A’ from Geely is exemplar of state-of-the-art Chinese production car design from one of the more mature Chinese car giants.
For the last twelve years we have been coming to Auto Shanghai, each show (every two years) has evidenced a progression in design quality and a reduction in derivative designs, and 2019 was no different. Within this wider context we see this year a marked development in the number of fastback / four-door coupe designs being announced, and a related increase also in coupe-SUVs, which shows a shift in the product typology appealing to Chinese customers, particularly at a more premium level.
Specific to design, this year we saw a progression and reassertion of the New Age Chinese Electric Design (“NACED”) with a confluence of new EV designs from start-up brands featuring these design qualities: a front facia with single slender light and or grille upper graphic flanked by lower vertical apertures; an overall exterior design that is calm and unified with little ‘dynamic dive’, complex surfacing, or embellishment; interiors that place great emphasis on digital UX design.
Outside of the production and near production designs debuting in Shanghai there were some, but few, examples of Chinese brands exploring future directions with more radical concepts; notable the classically sporty, yet autonomous, Exeed E-IUV (the first fruit we see from newly incumbent design director, Kevin Rice) to the Sharing Van concepts from Dongfeng which are level-4 Autonomous vehicles far removed from current production car design.
2019 Auto Shanghai was a show that lead on both quality and quantity of car design; we're looking forward to the next one in two year's time already.