China’s Green Auto Dream: A Road Paved with Problems 中国的绿色汽车之梦:前途荆棘密布

With the annual Shanghai Auto Show kicking off yesterday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a posting or two about the latest news coming from China’s car industry. Not surprisingly, one of the big themes this year, apart from slowing sales, is new energy vehicles, which Beijing is heavily promoting. Most of the major domestic automakers, including Geely (HKEx: 175), BYD (HKEx: 1211), Dongfeng (HKEx: 489) and Guangzhou Auto (HKEx: 2238), were talking up their green car initiatives at the show (English article) even though sales so far are almost non-existent. I’ve no doubt that sales will pick up as new models start to come to market, helped much more by Beijing’s strong incentives than any environmental awareness among Chinese consumers. But given the complex technology needed to run these cars, and the fact that much of it is still a work-in-progress even among the most advanced car makers, China is hardly the place for this new technology to develop. Given that situation, I’d say to look for a bumper crop of duds to roll off China’s green auto production lines in the next couple of years, with this well-intentioned initiative largely destined to fail and those carmakers who invest heavily in it to take major write-offs.

Bottom line: China’s green car initiative is doomed to failure due to the complex nature of the technology, which needs to be perfected first in the West.

上 海车展昨天开幕。并不出人意料的是,今年的车展上一大主题是中国政府大力提倡新能源汽车。大多数国内汽车制造商,如吉利<0175.HK>和 比亚迪<1211.HK>,东风<0489.HK>,广州汽车<2238.HK>都纷纷在车展上展示新能源概念车, 尽管迄今为止中国市场还几乎没有新能源汽车在销售。我相信,当市场开始销售新能源车型後,销量会上升,而这更多地是受政府的高补贴政策,而不是消费者环保 意识的推动。但考虑到环保车型所需技术复杂,且即使是汽车行业最先进的厂商,大部分新能源车型还处於研发阶段的事实,中国几乎不可能是新能源汽车技术能取 得突破的地点。因此,我预计未来几年中国会出现大量技术不过硬的环保车型,政府的好意相当程度上可能落空,大力投资生产绿色车型的制造商要蒙受重大损失。


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