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China: the difficult birth of an automotive superpower

The Chinese automotive market at first appears to be a no-brainer. With such a massive potential customer base, surely all that the world’s vehicle manufacturers have to do is find a suitable local joint venture partner, shake hands, build or re-tool a plant or two and start making cars? Unfortunately, things are never as simple as they seem

In the space of time it takes to make one very cheap taxi journey along the crowded roads of Beijing, the growth potential of the automotive industry in China becomes blatantly clear. First there are the people, the actual volume of which (1.3 billion in the whole of China at the last count) is simply staggering.

Then there are the vehicles, which are generally battered old models that cough and splutter their way from A to B, crying out to be replaced by a new car sourced from one of China’s numerous new international joint ventures.

Add these factors to the recent demise of many barriers to entry, legislation aimed at fuelling the demand for cars and a continuously growing per-capita GDP and it becomes…

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