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Lotus Exige enthrals Hong Kong Auto Show as Guangzhou Auto reveals export potential of GS8

Hong Kong Mazda and classic car clubs delight collectors as mainland marques unveil latest models

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 8:50pm

The inaugural Hong Kong Auto Show presented a wide range of Chinese and international cars at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre last weekend. The following five made the strongest impression.

The show’s highlight was the Lotus Exige Sport 380, a potential collectible that local dealer Richburg Lotus says only arrived here last week. Selling for “about HK$1.3 million”, the 376-horsepower, 3.5-litre turbocharged two-seater does 100km/h in about 3.5 seconds and tops at 375km/h via a six-speed manual shift. The sleek fastie with light-emitting diode lights has an aluminium chassis and weighs only 1,100kg, but consumes 21.2 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres for 220g/km in CO2 emissions. Built with a front energy-absorbing crash structure and fitted with high-performance brakes, the model can be customised in a variety of carbon, leather and tartan design schemes.

Two local clubs brought life to the show in the dour, big-pillared expanse of Hall 3. The 70-member MX5 Club de Roadster Hong Kong exhibited a fine selection of Mazda’s best-selling roadsters and the Classic Car Club of Hong Kong showed two rows of fine cars. A classic Citroen 2CV and a DS drew admirers, but the Best of Show was a 4.9-litre 1954 Bentley R Type drophead coupe, restored by To Kwa Wan-based Frank Dale & Stepsons.

Several mainland cars were shown at the event, which was jointly organised by China National Machinery Industry Corp and Nam Kwong Group. Of the six mainland marques represented, only Guangzhou Automobile Group made a significant effort to engage Hong Kong’s English-speakers or foreign visitors, however. Guangzhou Auto showed it had done its homework on the cultural diversity – and the traditional entrepot role of Hong Kong – and manned its stand with a young, enthusiastic customer relations duo who spoke excellent English. Unlike other mainland firms, the marque provided well-produced brochures about the group and also each model, in English, and in the process might have created a new bridgehead of overseas export and media contacts in Hong Kong.

“We are here as part of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’,” a Guangzhou Auto spokeswoman said. Within five minutes, the carmaker engaged a visitor from the Indian subcontinent on the build and distribution of its best-selling GS8 seven-seater sports utility vehicle. The marque has 400 outlets across the mainland and exports to 14 countries. The GS8 was also launched in Detroit this year but would not be in Hong Kong for a couple of years as the marque just made left-hand drives, the spokeswoman said, describing how the marque’s Guangzhou factory already produces a monthly 10,000 of this “flagship” sport utility vehicle, and 40,000 of its bestseller, the GS4 SUV.

The GS8 had mixed reactions at the show. Young Hongkongers mocked the faux wood of the SUV’s dashboard, but appreciated the width and comfort of its seats. A Guangzhou Auto product brochure revealed that the 1,840kg model had a Japanese Aisin two-litre turbo engine that complies to Euro 5 emissions standard and belts 198hp via a six-speed automatic transmission. It also consumes 6.8 litres of gas per 100 kilometres on a 66-litre tank.

Stickered at 160,000 yuan (US$23,536), the GS8 looks a bulky park in urban Hong Kong, but also very exportable. This SUV could sell well in the New Territories and also appeal to newly rich, big families in the Philippines. The GS8’s 10-inch dashboard screen is so colourful it could tempt the eye off the road. However, the model’s switching and electronics compete well with more costly overseas models in Hong Kong. Such features include mobile-phone wireless charging, Carplay and Carlife connectivity and the 18-feature T-box remote security system that includes rescue service links. The model’s safety includes eight airbags and ISOFIX fittings on a steel frame “conforming to the most demanding North American standards”, Guangzhou Auto says.

Meanwhile, Yuen Long-based Nova Motors has sold SAIC’s Maxus vans in Hong Kong for more than a year and presented its 5.16-metre G10 seven-seater at the show. At HK$359,000, the Maxus G10 offers the kind of luxury and room of Nissan Elgrand (HK$479,800) but for less money and has all-round cameras and rear-parking sensors. The van is fitted with a 215hp, two-litre turbo petrol engine, but the marque also offers a 1.8-litre G10 Pro (HK$229,900) and an unpriced 5.7-metre EV80 version whose 100kW battery promises a 192km driving range.

Other mainland marques made little impact with English speakers in Hong Kong. The Dongfeng stand left its attractive AX7 SUV unattended and its Aeolus without a spec sheet. Geely Auto staff remained seated at their stand, leaving fleeting foreign visitors no better informed of their marque and its attractive 1.8-litre, 148,000-yuan Boyue show car.

Sinotruck, on the other hand, gave useful background about its 2007 Hong Kong red-chip listing and collaboration with Steyr, MAN and Volvo on heavy-duty trucks. Its Howo brand and local agent Dah Chong Hong also showed a range of impressive-looking belt-and-road-era trucks with 6.8-litre and 10.5-litre German engines and a functional cab with bed. However, a cabful of noisy children deterred a closer inspection of a showtruck’s dashboard ergonomics.

The 1.5-litre Chery Tiggo 7 SUV also looked well made with Porsche-like dashboard stitching and impressive electronics. Its rear-quarter views need improvement with larger mirrors for pushy Hong Kong traffic, perhaps, but the car looked good value for 100,000 yuan. However, its show representative could only speak Putonghua.

Never mind, because the Hong Kong Auto Show has reminded the city’s international community – and its global contacts – of which mainland marques speak and maybe export in English here – and which makers do not.