The 2020 Beijing auto show marks first major trade show under pandemic

Ford, Nissan, and BMW unveiled electric models with more range for China on Saturday as the Beijing auto show opened under anti-virus controls that included holding news conferences by international video link.

Automakers are looking to China, the first major economy to start recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, to drive sales growth and reverse multibillion-dollar losses.

Auto China 2020, postponed from March, is the first major trade show for any industry since the pandemic began. The ruling Communist Party’s decision to go ahead with it reflects official confidence that China, where the pandemic began in December, has the disease under control.

“The 2020 Beijing motor show is a symbol of hope,” BMW’s China CEO, Jochen Goller, told reporters who wore masks but stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the event. He paid tribute to Chinese medical workers who “made it possible for us to enjoy this large-scale event today.”

Authorities ordered limits on crowds at the event, which attracted 820,000 visitors at its last installment in 2018. Employees walked through the cavernous exhibition center carrying signs that said “Be Sure to Wear Masks.”

China’s auto market, the world’s biggest, already has rebounded to sales above pre-pandemic levels. Purchases rose 6 per cent in August compared with a year earlier, while U.S. sales were down 9.5 per cent.

Global and Chinese automakers displayed dozens of electric models, part of a race by the industry to meet Chinese government sales quotas imposed to promote the technology.

Ford held the China debut of its all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV, while Nissan showed off its all-electric Ariya SUV.

Visitors try the Mercedes Benz EQC 400 car at the Beijing Auto Show in Beijing on September 27, 2020.

Wang Zhao /


Most foreign-based auto executives stayed home due to travel restrictions that require visitors arriving in China from abroad to undergo a two-week quarantine. Several brands broadcast their events online to reach auto writers abroad.

China’s major auto shows, held in Beijing and Shanghai in alternate years, are the industry’s biggest events, attracting every global automaker and dozens of Chinese brands.

This week’s event follows a smaller auto show in July in the western city of Chengdu with 120 exhibitors, equal to about 10 per cent of the size of the typical Beijing and Shanghai shows.

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