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Firms push new-energy auto

2014-04-21 09:41 Global Times Web Editor: qindexing

The market for new-energy vehicles is expected to start growing more quickly, with major automakers announcing moves to expand into the sector at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition (Auto China) on Sunday.

A total of 79 new-energy vehicles are being displayed at this year's event. Though the number is slightly lower than in previous years, the participation of leading companies has sent a strong signal that the market will grow further, experts said.

German carmaker Volkswagen, which has said that it intends to produce plug-in hybrids in China by 2016, premiered two plug-in hybrids at the event - the Golf GTE and the XL1. The company's Up! electric car is also set to arrive in the Chinese market later this year, it said at the auto show.

A plug-in hybrid concept by Bentley, a luxury brand owned by Volkswagen, also made its global debut at Auto -China this year.

German carmaker Daimler also announced its DENZA electric car will be eligible for local subsidies in China when it goes on sale in the domestic market in September. DENZA is being jointly developed with Daimler's -Chinese partner BYD.

Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp, which has so far sold over 6 million of its hybrid Prius cars globally, said at the show that it plans to make and sell hybrid versions of its Corolla and Levin sedans in China next year.

Domestic carmakers are also trying to gain a stronger foothold in the sector. BYD launched its plug-in hybrid SUV model - called Tang - at the auto show. And Beijing-based BAIC Group announced that it will cooperate with Siemens to co-develop electric-powered vehicles in China.

"Both the products and the market for new-energy vehicles are more mature now, and unlike before, the sector is expected to see real development this time," Zhang Zhiyong, an independent industry watcher, told the Global Times Sunday.

Wu Shuocheng, editor-in-chief at industry portal auto.gasgoo.com, said that the government's push to cut pollution is a major reason behind the growing acceptance of new-energy cars.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced a target in March 2013 that automakers' average oil consumption should be reduced to 6.9 liters per 100 kilometers by 2015, falling to 5 liters by 2020.

At a meeting held by the State Energy Commission on Friday, Premiere Li Keqiang stressed the importance of further development of new-energy cars as part of the efforts to maintain growth and protect the environment, according to a statement posted on the central government's website on Sunday.

However, Wu told the Global Times that sales of new-energy cars are not likely to see a major improvement this year as it will take time for research and production efforts to turn into sales.

Zhang Yu, managing director at consultancy Automotive Foresight (Shanghai) Co, noted that hybrids represent a transition to the era of pure electric-powered cars. The transition is taking a long time, but the sector is deserving of "long-term investment by automakers," he told the Global Times Sunday.

Various Chinese cities have launched car purchase restrictions in order to ease traffic congestion and cut pollution, such as Hangzhou and Tianjin. But there are no signs of the auto market cooling down, with Auto China still full of enthusiastic automakers and consumers.

Experts noted that cities' restrictive policies will dent local car sales, but the overall Chinese auto market is still likely to see strong growth this year.

The auto exhibition, which runs until April 29, has drawn over 2,000 companies, according to the show's website.

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