Sometime soon, China will overtake the United States as the world's biggest market for luxury cars.
Global automakers act as if that transition already has occurred.
The Beijing auto show this week is a showcase for Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz -- the dominant luxury brands in China -- as well as challengers such as Cadillac, Lincoln and Infiniti.
Well-heeled Chinese consumers respond to the same technologies -- such as infotainment and collision avoidance -- that attract crowds in New York, London and Tokyo. And if that technology is packed into a crossover or SUV, a friendly reception in Beijing is assured, said Namrita Chow, a London-based analyst for IHS Automotive.
"Chinese consumers are far more aware than they were 10 or 15 years ago," Chow said. "They are younger, they are tech-savvy, they travel and they are aware of international trends."
Coming to the show
As of Friday, April 22, several luxury brands had announced their plans for Beijing:
- Infiniti's QX Sport Inspiration, with its floating A-pillars and wide wheel arches, hints at the brand's vision for a next-generation midsize crossover.
- Volkswagen's luxury plug-in hybrid SUV concept boasts an electric-only range of 31 miles and a combined fuel economy of 78 mpg.
- Mercedes' V-class multipurpose vehicle features a panoramic sliding glass roof, built-in refrigerator and folding tables on the front-seat backrests.
- Cadillac's XT5 midsize crossover has all-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.
- Lexus is displaying a freshened version of its IS midsize sedan.
- Acura is unveiling a compact crossover based on the Honda HR-V that the company says will be the first Acura produced in China.
Global automakers seem eager to showcase the technology that underpins their self-driving cars. This month, Volvo announced plans to conduct a road test in China of 100 self-driving vehicles.