SHANGHAI -- For years, international brands have been outnumbered by their domestic Chinese competitors in new model launches at auto shows held in China. But in one segment, luxury cars, global brands continue to dominate.
The gap will widen at the Beijing show that starts Friday.
Of the 89 models making their debuts at the Beijing auto show, 75 will belong to domestic Chinese brands, according to information released by the show organizer.
But most of these cars are aiming for the middle and lower segments of the market.
In the premium-car sector, it is global brands that will shine at the Beijing show, and even more brightly than at last year's event in Shanghai.
Why? For starters, global brands will have no indigenous challengers this year. Geely displayed a Rolls-Royce lookalike last year in Shanghai, but has said it won't put it on show in Beijing.
Secondly, nearly all participating premium brands have something genuinely new to show Chinese consumers.
Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche will use the Beijing show as a venue for the global debut of their latest products. Meanwhile, Daimler and BMW are going the extra mile to meet wealthy Chinese consumers' demand for big cars by launching long-wheelbase versions of their key models. Daimler subsidiary Mercedes-Benz will show a stretched version of the E-class sedan while BMW will give a world debut to the long-wheelbase 5-series sedan.
They are doing this for good reasons.
Supported by its booming economy, China has already overtaken Japan to become the world's second-largest market for luxury products, next only to the United States.
This growth is also reflected in the premium-car market. According to the J.D. Power statistics I have at hand, all luxury carmakers have reported double-digit or higher sales growth so far this year in China.
Take Daimler for example. The company sold 23,610 Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach cars in China in the first quarter, up 112 percent from a year earlier.
With the Chinese economy growing by 11.3 percent in the first three months, global premium carmakers can surely look forward to another bumper harvest in China this year.