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Beijing Auto Show 2024 highlights Part 3: the most impressive Chinese brands

Zeekr 007

We have covered the noticeable foreign and Chinese brands at the Beijing Auto Show, but we have kept the best for last. Here are the three most impressive brands at the Show, that happen to be all Chinese. Another proof that the Chinese market is moving at breakneck speed, two of these brands are not even three years old.

3. Zeekr

In the space of less than 3 years (deliveries of the first model, the 001, started in Q3 2021), Zeekr has established itself as a mainstay in the Chinese premium EV segment. And the carmaker is still going, with sales more than doubling year-on-year over the First Quarter of 2024. Unlike other groups like Changan, GAC and GWM, the three main Geely brands, Geely itself, Lynk & Co and Zeekr had dedicated stands, with 3 showrooms equally as big. As a side note, the Geely stand said “Geely Galaxy” as its main sign, showing how the brand is leaning towards its NEV series.

On top of its existing 001, 007, 009 and X, Zeekr introduced its 5th model at the Show: the MIX MPV. Its front fascia is similar to that of the 007. According to Zeekr, the MIX overall design is inspired by the Tiangong Space Station – China’s space station located in low Earth orbit. It has no door handles (!) and will be available as a 5- or 6-seater, the latter with 3 seats at the front. The MIX has an unusual door configuration: the driver has a conventional front door whereas the passengers all have sliding doors, as pictured above. Zeekr is starting its expansion in Europe this year, having already reached Ukrainian shores. We will follow the brand’s evolution in various European markets with great attention.

2. Xiaomi

By far the most popular showroom in the entire Auto Show, Xiaomi had cleverly anticipated the huge public interest and had organised its stand to allow for a long queue to form orderly alongside it. And long the queue was indeed! Launched last month with its first model the SU7 in what is without a doubt the most anticipated arrival in the Chinese market this year, phone maker Xiaomi’s first inroads in the automotive world sparked worldwide attention. Xiaomi exhibited no less than 9 SU7 in its showroom. It was the occasion to meet the new SU7 in person for the first time and experience its cockpit. The result is mighty impressive.

All the materials are flawlessly smooth, the dashboard is understated with few commands on the steering wheel and the gear shift as a wand behind the wheel. The central touch screen is gigantic but Xiaomi didn’t fall victim of the end-to-end screens we have now been accustomed to with Chinese carmakers. Refreshingly, there are still some physical buttons below the screen and on the central command. There’s even a screen on the back of the driver’s seat to occupy the kids during long trips. All-in-all, an outstanding environment and gobsmacking performance (as we’ll see below) are offered for a bargain price: from 215,900 to 299,900 yuan (27,800-38,600€ or US$29,800 to 41,400). For comparison, its main competitor the Tesla Model 3 is priced from 231,900 to 335,000 yuan after multiple rounds of price cuts to avoid being harmed by the current price war in progress in China.

At its Beijing Auto Show press conference, Xiaomi also announced some sales and performance results. According to CEO Lei Jun, sales of the SU7 have been 3-5 times higher tham expected. It has received lock-in orders (non-refundable deposits) of a staggering 75,723 units. 5,781 cars have been delivered as of 24 April, less than a month after its 28 March launch. On 29 April Lei Jun revealed that the 10,000th SU7 rolled off the factory. The company also revealed some buyer profiles: 28% are female, 29% currently drive BMW, Mercedes or Audi and 52% are Apple users. Xiaomi aims to exceed 10,000 monthly deliveries by June. It aims to increase its presence to 46 cities with 219 stores and 86 cities with 143 service points by the end of 2024.

Now onto the performance. The SU7 accelerates from 0-100 km/h in just  2.78 seconds, and has a top speed of 265 km/h. Xiaomi claims a drag coefficient of 0.195 Cd for which is the lowest among production vehicles. The SU7 Max top trim recently eclipsed the Zhejiang Car Race, an FIA-approved Grade 2 circuit,  in 1 minute 38.043 seconds, which is faster than the Porsche Taycan Turbo S and the Tesla Model S Plaid. It rivals the Lotus Eletre R+.

Hongqi EHS7Hongqi EH7 Hongqi H9Hongqi HQ9 PHEV Hongqi HS7 PHEV

1. Hongqi

I’ve chosen Hongqi as the most impressive Chinese carmaker at the Beijing Auto Show 2024, as well as the most impressive full stop. Keep in mind Hongqi retail sales are up 35.4% year-on-year over Q1 2024. Firstly, surprisingly its stand was the biggest of all single-branded showrooms at the Show and the only one for the FAW Group (Bestune was nowhere to be seen). Secondly the number of models exposed was plentiful. On top of the new EHS7 and EH7, the HS7 PHEV, H9 and HQ9 were there among others. Hongqi was prolific in its display of concept cars as well, with an important point that they likely preview future models and are not just stylistic studies. The E702 sedan could preview the next generation H9, while the E009 sedan and E007 SUV could be all new models.

Hongqi GuoyaHongqi Golden Sunflower showroom

Thirdly and most impressively was the dedicated area to the Golden Sunflower range, the Golden Sunflower being one of Hongqi’s logos. Having arguably “massified” with smaller large volume models such as the E-QM5 and H5 sedans and the HS3 and HS5 SUVs, Hongqi has decided to create an uber-luxurious section within its lineup, to maintain its cachet: Golden Sunflower. The area was invitation-only and the soundtrack was live cello and harp. So posh! The main launch was the Guoya large sedan, also advertised on large billboards outside the Show. Guo for nation and Ya for elegance. Reservations from users around the world are now open, but the price hasn’t been disclosed yet. The other models within the Golden Sunflower range are the Guoyao SUV, the Guoli sedan previously called L5 and the Guoyue bus. The Guoli was positioned next to the Guoya at the Show (see picture above).

That’s all for the Beijing Auto Show 2024 coverage! Next is an exploration of the car landscape of Beijing, and a lot has changed since our last update in 2018…

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