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Global Automotive Forum Offers Insight Into Future of Mobility Industry in China

As part of a strategic effort to learn more about Chinese automotive market trends and strengthen existing industry relationships, the Detroit Regional Chamber traveled to Chongqing, China in June to participate in the 2016 Global Automotive Forum. The three-day trip provided an opportunity to share the current state of the auto industry in Michigan with leading Chinese industry executives, as well as explore developments in electric vehicle manufacturing and the connected and autonomous vehicle landscape in China.

The trip builds on the Chamber’s longstanding relationship with the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and was conducted in partnership with the Michigan Automotive Industry Office and Michigan-China Innovation Center.

While abroad, Justin Robinson, the Chamber’s vice president of Business Attraction, attended several events around the show and participated in a panel discussion on doing business with the Michigan automotive industry attended by representatives from Chinese suppliers. Kevin Kerrigan, senior adviser for automotive initiatives at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), also led a panel discussion on connected and autonomous vehicle development and electric vehicle development for over 600 attendees.

Robinson said a key takeaway from the trip was the stark difference between the two countries on a next-generation mobility strategy and current progress by our respective domestic suppliers in this space.

“While the U.S. has made a pretty full pivot into connected and autonomous technology, China’s priority still seems to be focused on new energy/electric vehicle development,” he said. “We are roughly a couple years further along in the connected mobility discussion with the exception of a very small number of leading Chinese automotive and technology firms.”

That’s where Michigan’s numerous research and development and vehicle testing assets, such as the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run, will benefit the state and country in the long-term, Robinson said.

“How can Chinese companies keep up with the technology demands of both new energy and connected and autonomous vehicle markets? Most of the Chinese OEMs and suppliers don’t have the dollars to invest in that type of research and development. It will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Robinson said.

Other key takeaways:

  • Chongqing is China’s largest manufacturing base. The city has an annual auto capacity production of 4 million vehicles with Chang’an and Ford Motor Co. making up a large percentage of this capacity.
  • Chinese brands held over 30 percent share of the Chinese passenger auto market in 2015.
  • Chinese industry execs know that the country must transform its smart mobility strategy as the industry continues to rapidly develop due to disruptive technologies. The challenge is that China’s domestic auto industry lags behind the world’s auto powers in terms of development levels, professional expertise and other related criteria.

In addition to the Automotive Forum, the Chamber and MEDC traveled to Chengdu, China in support of Michigan’s sister state, Sichuan Province. While there, the team met with Sichuan government leaders and a small number of Chinese OEM and Tier 1 suppliers with a focus on electric and autonomous technology.

As a follow up, the Chamber assisted with the hosting of the Executive Vice Governor of Sichuan to the Detroit region at the end of June featuring 80 delegates from government, industry, education and tourism. The visit was anchored by a reception hosted by Gov. Rick Snyder, and a tour of the city hosted by the Chamber featuring delegation representatives and Sichuan Executive Vice Gov. Wang Ning.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Hamilton at 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page. For more information on Business Attraction, contact Justin Robinson at 313.596.0352.