Upmarket sport utility vehicles are expected to cause a stir at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show as carmakers vie to meet rising demand from China’s middle class. Lincoln, the luxury brand of the American motor company, Ford, will use the show for the China launch of its two new SUVs – the mid-size crossover Lincoln MKX and full-size Lincoln Navigator. The GLC Coupe by Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz will also make its China debut at the show, following its unveiling at the Detroit auto show in January that marked the start of the German brand’s plans to expand into the SUV market. BMW will show its X5 xDrive40e, its first plug-in hybrid, while the second generation Audi Q7 e-tron, also unveiled in Detroit, is making an appearance, too. Audi’s Q5 was among the top 10 best-selling SUVs in China last year, with a price ranging from 360,000 yuan (HK$456,000) to 570,000 yuan. The Shanghai show, the biggest in China, opens to the media and VIPS from Monday and to the public from Wednesday and runs until April 29. Carmakers will be displaying 1,343 models – 209 more than at last year’s show in Beijing, the event’s organiser said. There will be 109 vehicles making their global debuts and 103 new-energy vehicles on display. The potential for the SUV market in China was huge because of the country’s growing middle class, said Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. “The Chinese middle class is less interested in sedans [and increasingly opting] for SUVs, which are more comfortable and roomy,” he said. “With growing wealth, Chinese consumers are finding SUVs more affordable.” China’s SUV sales in March increased by 54 per cent to 474,100, compared with the year before, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. This compared with a 9.4 per cent increase in vehicle sales overall to 1.87 million. SUVs accounted for more than 25 per cent of the passenger vehicle market for the first time in March – last year they accounted for 20.7 per cent. “We believe this trend will continue this year as increasingly buyers – even some first-time purchasers – are shifting from sedans cars to SUVs,” Macquarie Group analysts said in a research note. Zhang Zhiyong, an independent auto industry observer, said the growth in SUV sales was slowing, but remained faster than that of other passenger vehicles. He said car companies were keen to expand into this market and launching more new models. Zhang added that the market for mid-end SUVs had better growth potential, but that “luxury SUVs will for sure catch visitors’ attention at the Shanghai show”.