Introduction
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos, Autoblog

Introduction

The Beijing Auto Show may well be the most important auto show in the world. Take a look at the Chinese market, which has grown at a mind-boggling pace. A decade ago, China was selling just two million vehicles a year. But General Motors estimates that China will tally more than 16 million vehicle sales this year, compared with less than 12 million in the U.S. To global automakers facing stagnation in Europe and the U.S., China represents opportunity like nowhere else.

But the Chinese car market is quite different from others, as it’s still regional. Around the big cities, Western companies dominate the market: Volkswagen, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and Peugeot. But dozens of local Chinese companies are pumping out new models, working hard to improve their quality and design, with their eyes on export markets. Companies like BYD, Geely and Great Wall already sell cars outside of China, and eventually plan to enter the U.S.

We’ve broken down what we saw at this year’s Beijing show into a few categories: significant and interesting entries for a quickly growing emerging market, Chinese-built vehicles we think have possibilities in the U.S., and some other silly stuff. Click through to see our takes.

Most Significant: Ford Start
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

Most Significant: Ford Start

More of a “driver’s” micro-car than a cute fashion statement, the Ford Start was one of the most striking concepts at the show. While the exterior was something to behold, we found it interesting that Ford debuted a 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine under the hood. While Ford won't say that such a small engine could be headed for America, it might be a good hedge against future gas price spikes.

The car springs from the advanced concepts group at Ford led by Freeman Thomas and supervised by J Mays. It's difficult not to see the thematic similarities between this Start concept and the VW Beetle -- the arch of the roof is the obvious one. There is some history here, after all, as Thomas and Mays were the team that designed the concept that became the New Beetle.
Most Significant: Chevy Volt MPV5
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Most Significant: Chevy Volt MPV5

A natural progression of the Chevy Volt hybrid electric sedan going on sale the end of this year, the Volt MPV5 simply has more volume for storage and utility. The added comfort and size may make it more attractive to buyers, though at a price: reduced range. The Volt sedan has a 40-mile projected range, so the bigger MPV5 wouldn’t be able to travel as far before its gas motor kicks in for recharging. Could this be headed to America? GM needs to spread out the cost of its pricey technology across as many cars as possible. Expect Volt variants to pop up one to two years after the initial hype starts to ebb.
Most Significant: BMW Concept Gran Coupe
  • Image Credit: BMW

Most Significant: BMW Concept Gran Coupe

Yes, this is another four-door "coupe," if you choose to call it that. Not as dramatic as the Mercedes Benz CLS that started the genre, the Gran Coupe is more in keeping with the styling seen in the X6 crossover. Insiders say it could be a stand-alone model in the BMW lineup, or could foreshadow the next 6 Series. BMW continues to slice its industry leading rear-drive platforms in ways we could hardly imagine. Will there ever be too many niches?
Most Significant: Lamborghini Murcielago Superveloce LP670-4 China Editione
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

Most Significant: Lamborghini Murcielago Superveloce LP670-4 China Editione

Lamborghini is booming in China, with sales up 11% last year. The VW-owned brand will be opening its eighth dealership in the country this year, responding to a growing cultural appetite for super cars. This one produces 670 horsepower from a fire-breathing V12. Chairman Mao would be proud. “China Edition” will attract even more new business from the Chinese glitterati and cognoscenti.
Most Significant: Ferrari 599 GTO
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

Most Significant: Ferrari 599 GTO

Let’s face it: Ferrari does super cars better than Lambo -- or anyone. The fastest street-legal, front-engine car ever made by the prancing horse, only 599 will be sold (and, if you're not already a Ferrari owner or a Chinese captain of industry, good luck getting one). The non-street-legal companion to the GTO -- dubbed the 599XX -- recently broke the 7-minute barrier on the famed German Nurburgring, in case you needed some additional proof of the GTO's bona fides.
Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Geely Englon TXN
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Geely Englon TXN

The model is called “Englon” to evoke thoughts of the Queen and Picadilly, and we love this vehicle from Geely modeled after a London cab. (It’s hard to argue with this salesperson, too.) China is a country where a lot of executives are used to riding in the backseat, more so than in the U.S. These cabs are intended more for high-end hotels and other places of privilege where private cars are not always used. Regardless, it sure beats the Ford Crown Victoria and Toyota Prius cabs we have here in the U.S., doesn't it?
Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: BYD S6
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: BYD S6

We may get our wish on this one, as China's BYD recently received a big investment from Warren Buffet and plans on launching in the U.S. by the end of this year. Details as to how that will happen are still fuzzy, but the company has designs on bringing only hybrids and electrics over to start. This SUV looks like it could hold its own against the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe.

BYD said it has its eyes set on the Lexus RX with this car, but that may only fly in some emerging markets. The engine is either a 2.0- or 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which isn't much displacement for our market. Features include a power sunroof, back-up camera, keyless entry, DVD multimedia system, GPS navigation, automatic climate control, tilt steering column, and 17-inch alloy wheels and tires.
Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Morris Garages (various)
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Morris Garages (various)

The storied British marque (now controlled by Chinese automaker SAIC) remains something of a hazy vintage memory in the minds of many U.S. consumers, but the crop of MGs the company had on the stand looked very respectable. Even if we can’t vouch for how they drive or what kind of reliability they might offer, design is still being done in Birmingham, England. The company is currently concentrating on selling the TF sports car, but the MG6 five-passenger coupe is due to go on sale later this year.
Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Haval’s Great Wall X240
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Haval’s Great Wall X240

This company has flirted with entering the U.S. by means of a shaky distribution agreement, but there's nothing substantial about their plans just yet. If their SUV drives anything like it looks, it would certainly make an impression on Americans even if the brand name puts a few people off. The X240 is a compact SUV based on the Toyota 4Runner with sub-$30,000 pricing. The amount of standard equipment is impressive: full leather trim, climate control, back-up sensors, electric mirrors and windows, 17-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, front fog lamps and keyless entry.
Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Geely EC-7
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles We Like For The U.S.: Geely EC-7

Geely is one of the companies that keeps Detroit auto execs up at night. It recently bought Volvo, giving it an already-in-place distribution network. The company's Chinese-made cars -- including this EV -- show real promise, with respectable fit and finish throughout. As the Volvo partnership starts bearing fruit, we can only imagine how good they might be. A full EV on a platform this size should work just fine in the U.S.
Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: The Grand Hawtai
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: The Grand Hawtai

This big, black car comes from the company previously known as Hua Tai. Now called Hawties, the company went from blatantly ripping off BMW’s corporate logo to, well, ripping off its own countryman at Great Wall. Lack of originality is one of the issues preventing most local Chinese companies from being taken seriously by the West, and this outfit is one of the kings of the copying game.
Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Mystery Beast
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Mystery Beast

It was tough to make out the brand behind this monster. It looks and feels like it was built by an academically challenged auto shop class. Sure, it has four wheels, but look where they are. Note the excellent fit and finish in the driver door. Yikes! Should we just call that an escape hatch? I sat in the backseat after badgering the show stand attendant, and I can say that I wouldn't want to drive it in an empty parking lot, let alone in traffic.
Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Geely IG Hyrbid
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Geely IG Hyrbid

Why do companies think that putting Gullwing doors on a car will make it look better? Instead it just resembles a bug and not in a good way. (“IG” actually stands for “Intelligent Geely,” if you can believe that.) Geely is coming along, but its small car designs need help. Maybe the folks from Volvo can raise their game.
Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Citroen Revolte
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Citroen Revolte

As bad and balky as some of the homegrown Chinese vehicles can get, the French can still make you stop and stare. First shown at the Frankfurt auto show last fall, this one is now made worse by the attire of the model. Undoubtedly the designer on the car also consulted on wardrobe, and the purple color doesn't help. Really, we're not sure if this is a concept car or a fraternity pledge.
Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Chana EV-concept electric
  • Image Credit: David Kiley, AOL Autos

Five Vehicles That Just Make Us Snicker and Tweet: Chana EV-concept electric

Enough with the super-high belt-lines: This car is practically taller than it is long. And stop buying tail-lights by the yard! This show model is just praying she gets hired by a better outfit for next year.
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