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Beijing, China -- The 9th Beijing International Auto Show kicked off last weekend amidst cranes and half-erected buildings. Until November 27,
(Photo: Nadine Filion,
some 560 vehicles are being showcased to the Chinese market, which could very well become the world's largest by 2020.

If were you me, having only a day to spend at this auto show, would you take the time to wander around and admire the American and European models? I guess not. Rather, you would fly straight to the Chinese exhibit areas to discover unknown vehicles from this blossoming country.

BMWs "made in China"
Copies. Tons of copies. That's what many local manufacturers are offering. There are almost one hundred of them operating in China, where they account for 25 percent of the market.

And not unlike Louis Vuitton purses, their replicas are not always high-quality.

There is the Sceo from ShuangHuan Auto. This SUV-type vehicle does a
(Photo: Nadine Filion,
good job of imitating the BMW X5. However, the Sceo is much less expensive: 140,000 RMB (about $20,000 CA). That's understandable: the gloomy interior is appointed with fake leather and rough plastics -- not very luxurious.

Then there is the Plutus, an interesting Chevy Colorado clone produced by SG Automotive Group. I don't speak Chinese much but if I understand this correctly, the Plutus is powered by a 2.2L 4-cylinder engine that develops... 102 horsepower. That's it!

Again, the cabin disappoints. I couldn't stand the Armor-All gloss on all surfaces. And what do you know: the gauges, dashboard and center console look strangely similar to those of the Sceo!

How much for this Chevy Colorado replica? 70,000 RMB -- barely $10,000 CA.

Another five years?
I also have to mention that fake Jeep Wrangler I saw at the Beijing Automobile Works (BAW) exhibit area; it was called Zhan Qi. What about the tiny Chery QQ? This car looks so much like the Chevrolet Spark that a judge had to settle the case.

(Photo: Nadine Filion,
Dave Sedgwick, journalist for Automotive News, says he blames the Chinese automakers for copying international brands: "Yet again, the Beijing Auto Show does not offer any new design that's unique to domestic manufacturers. When they start introducing new ideas, and only then, they'll be ready to take on the global competition. My guess is it will take at least another five years to do it."

Soon the world's largest auto market
In the meantime, vehicle sales in China continue to soar. In 1998, there were less than two million cars sold; this year, the total is expected to exceed seven millions. China is on the verge of becoming Asia's largest auto market... even larger than Japan.

And according to Nick Reilly, president of GM Asia-Pacific, China could even surpass the United States by 2020, thus becoming the world's largest auto market.

Apparently, in China, even the craziest forecasts come true,view.spy?artid=72708&pg=1
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