China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai

After going through the most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Shanghai Auto Show, it’s time to go wandering the streets of Shanghai to share with you the most popular cars. The Shanghai automotive landscape is surprisingly easy to read with a few main trends on display.

China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
VW Santana taxi is king
The Shanghai-Volkswagen joint venture has been spitting out Santanas for three decades, so it’s no surprise to see them litter every single street of Shanghai. The surprise is how many of them still roam around. Santana taxis account for up to 50 percent of the total traffic in the French concession part of town for example.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
Efforts to replace it with more modern Touran and Lavida, though relatively successful, have done nothing to limit the Santana’s supremacy. The Santana Vista 1998 model is everywhere and I did spot two very well preserved first generation, privately owned Santanas. If anything, the Touran and Lavida have curbed sales of the new generation Santana, and you see none of them as taxis.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
Too cool for taxi? Buick GL8 it is.
If you think you’re way too cool to get moved around town in a regular taxi, then you’ll need to opt for the ubiquitous Buick GL8. Already very popular in Beijing, the GL8 — most of all the current generation —is the way to get chauffeured around in Shanghai if you can afford it. Go near the shopping districts of Tianzifang and Xintiandi and you’ll find line after line of Buick GL8 parked with their driver sleepily awaiting the end of a Prada and Louis Vuitton shopping spree.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
In fact, it not only the GL8 but the entire Buick lineup that’s particularly strong in Shanghai, even at the higher end of the scale. The LaCrosse is very frequent in the streets of the city, especially in financial Pudong, and I have spotted a few Envision SUVs already.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
Locals? What locals?
Even more acutely than in Beijing, where I estimated that Chinese carmakers amounted to around 10-15 percent of the traffic, Shanghai harbours a stinging self-hate for domestic manufacturers. The local brands account for no more than 5-8 percent of the overall Shanghai car landscape. The only ones keeping their head out of the water belong to Shanghai-based SAIC Group. Roewe is by far the most popular local brand in Shanghai, with the 550 being the favorite in the lineup by a large margin.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
Maxus is strong in the commercial area with a dozen M80 as well as a handful of G10 spotted. MG follows, mainly thanks to the MG3. The only other nameplates to pop up more than once are Jinbei and Foton Hiace-inspired vans and JAC light vans. I did spot one Qoros 3 in Pudong and a couple of BYD Qin hybrids.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
Range Rover Evoque favorite import
A particular favourite in Shanghai is the Range Rover Evoque, imported here and therefore highly expensive, but that hasn’t deterred a mini-craze towards this vehicle in China. I saw a total of over 20 in just two days spent wandering the streets. I also noticed an inordinate amount of Fiat Viaggio and Ottimo and three Tesla Model S’s in two days: one near People’s Square, one in Pudong and one on the Bund where a Ford F-150 Raptor also caught my attention.
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
Next we are headed North towards the North Korean and Russian borders. Next stop: Changchun, the “Detroit of China” in the Jilin province. Stay tuned!
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
China 2015: The Cars of Shanghai
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