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2020 Beijing Auto Show

Beijing auto show was originally scheduled for April this year, but it was delayed by COVID-19 and related travel and social-distancing restrictions. It finally took place in September, but travelling in and out off China for the show wasn’t possible, so we used China based associates and a variety of remote resources to research and produce for our clients our Design Trend Report from the show. This also enabled us to author here an overview of some of the most significant design debuts, insights, highlights and a synopsis of the show — as we do for all major international auto shows.

Preview list

Because the Beijing show was delayed, there were more new products presented than usual, 5 months more perhaps, although this was maybe off-set by a scaled back attendance meaning more cars were presented out of the show — several of the designs we detail here were not at the show, and as part of the wider move away from auto shows debuts we are including here designs such as the Ford Bronco and GMA T.50 that are significant new announcements from the show period.  

Core insights

This show period was rich with new designs making it hard to choose only three to stand as the most significant and examples of the trends we are seeing. Start-up car brands have come to define Chinese auto shows in recent years, and whilst the rate of their appearance may now be slowing, the ambition and level of delivery seen from them shows no sign of waning; the Human Horizons HiPhi X exemplifies this in its forward looking design and advanced technologies — there is no facet of this design that is pausing for breath. In a similar but different way, the Qoros Milestone concept shows how the pure aesthetic side of automotive design in China is very much at the bleeding edge of the discipline; it presents a form language that is very much at the vanguard. In a very different way, the Ford Bronco illustrates how key designs will increasingly debut outside of major auto shows, how it can be relevant to the future to re-imagine past ideas, and in doing so how design as a narrative makes both a compellingly rich offer to the customer and is thus also central to how design realises commercial value to the brand. 

Ford BroncoNot at Beijing, but a mightily significant new design for Ford as they re-assert the Bronco model line as a powerful (sub)brand in its own right much as they did previously with Mustang. The design hits a sweet spot of distinction and accessibility to define Bronco instantly as an icon product brand akin to the 500, Land Rover, Mini, 911, or Mustang — and thus illustrates the potential for design to realise a narrative that is central to the commercial success of a vehicle.
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Human Horizons HiPhi X Very close to the show-car preview of two years ago, this new brand’s first design is positioned as a self-learning, supercar-inspired SUV, with the world’s first Human Oriented Architecture (HOA) comprising of 6 ‘super brain’ domain controllers, connected by 1G Ethernet, over 500 sensors, and a 5G-V2X technology network, which then enables a secure, developer-open software platform. This $100k car pushes the technology envelope harder than any other car brand and its design speaks to this also, not least in the novel part gull-wing rear cabin access.
Human Horizons Hiphi X.jpg
Qoros Milestone conceptWith a New design language called ‘quadrant aesthetics’, this show car presents a distinct, appealing and potent aesthetic that shows from its new design team a new design direction for Qoros. The unadorned machine-fluid surfaces are artfully punctuated by strident light graphics and stark intersections of body to glazing.
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The new production designs in Beijing mostly evidence the continued fast evolution of Chinese domestic brands’ design competency, notably with mature and well resolved leading designs from Geely, FAW, GWM, and Wulwing, and also with some truly 
advanced concept designs from Qoros and GAC.  
Interestingly there were many designs that stand as stakes in the ground for their brands in three different ways:
1. The first fruits of senior European design directors work presented in the form of the Great Wall Futurist concept from Phil Simmons and the Hongqi E-HS9 large SUV from Giles Taylor.
2. Many marques re-asserting fresh design directions with major new production debuts — notably from Nissan, Rolls Royce, Skoda, and Maserati.
3. And several re-birthing model-lines as more significant sub-brand icons: Bronco from Ford, Wagoneer from Jeep, Hummer from GMC, and Z-Proto from Nissan. 
Beyond this we saw further developments of the coupe-crossover-fastback car, more simplified interiors, and a swath of other trends that we have identified and explain fully in our “2020 CDR Trend Report 6 – Autumn Auto – Europe and China focus” (drop us a line if you’re interested to learn more about these - as currently presented to the design groups of some of the leading western and eastern car brands of the world).