Automakers Unveil Latest EVs at Shanghai Auto Show

The Yomiuri Shimbun

SHANGHAI, China — Automakers from around the globe have flocked to the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition to unveil their latest electric vehicle (EV) models. The manufacturers have an eye on the Chinese market, the world’s largest for EVs. In contrast, Japanese automakers have lagged the competition and in recent years have attracted less attention at the Shanghai exhibition, one of world’s largest auto shows, which is running through Thursday.

New models

Local media have described the exhibition as “most exciting auto show in history,” and the Chinese term “New Energy” is a conspicuous feature at the booths in the about 360,000-square-meter venue.

The more than 1000 companies participating in the show have unveiled about 150 new models, mainly EVs, marking a significant increase on the previous exhibition.

BYD Co., a startup automobile manufacturer headquartered in Shenzhen, was among the firms to unveil new EV models. The dynamic design of the company’s auto body is attracting a lot of attention — as did the accompanying dance show.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
BYD Co. unveils a new model at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition on Friday in Shanghai, China.

NIO Inc., founded eight years ago in Shanghai, has demonstrated a system in which a car enters a special station and has its depleted battery swapped out in just 2½ minutes. The system has been attracting a lot of interest as there is no need to wait for the vehicle’s battery to recharge.

With the rise of “connected cars” that can communicate with the internet, exhibitors from other industries, including Huawei and China Mobile, are also prominent at the show.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An NIO Inc. EV is seen inside a system that automatically replaces depleted batteries, at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai, China.

Rapid acceleration

China has seen rapid growth in the popularity of EVs.

According to data from Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, EVs accounted for 7.74 million of the 78.7 million vehicles sold worldwide in 2022, or about 10%. In China’s case, EV sales accounted for 25.2% of total sales, eclipsing Europe (19.9%), North America (6.2%) and Japan (2.2%).

To tap into the growing market, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. have unveiled new EV models and prototypes at the show. Honda has also announced a plan for all its new vehicles sold in China to be EVs by 2035.

However, it cannot be denied that Japanese automakers have fallen behind the pack, and relatively few visitors are patronizing their respective booths. Of the 13 vehicles exhibited by Nissan, only three are EVs, while eight are gasoline-powered vehicles.

According to JATO Dynamics, a global supplier of automobile business intelligence, Honda ranks highest among Japan automakers for EV sales in 43rd place, with 7600 units sold. Toyota placed second highest, excluding its LEXUS brand, in 51st place, followed by Nissan in 60th place. In terms of China-based EV sales, Japanese firms lag far behind BYD (790,000 units sold) and U.S. EV manufacturer Tesla Inc. (440,000 units), in first and second place, respectively.

Tesla absence

Tesla is not taking part in the exhibition. The firm, which has a large factory in Shanghai, would have been the star of the auto show but chose not to participate following an uproar at the previous show in 2021.

During that event, a woman wearing a T-shirt reading, “The brakes are broken,” climbed onto the roof of a Tesla car and voiced doubts about its safety. At that time, there had been recent a string of incidents involving runaway Teslas in China. Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on the woman’s protest, which provoked intense criticism of the firm.

The Chinese economy has been buffeted by the COVID-19 pandemic and there are high hopes for foreign investment in the country. However, Chinese public opinion regarding Western countries has sharpened due to growing friction over economic security.

The Shanghai Motor Show offers a glimpse of China’s complicated position in the international community.

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