Why Chinese auto exports still suck, using the Tokyo Motor Show as an example



Last Saturday we were on the winding and windy road up to the Mazda Skylounge near Hakone, to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji, and of a bunch of drifters leaving rubber on Japan’s mountain passes. My mobile rang, and a nice lady inquired, sumisasen, whether I received my tickets to the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens its doors to the press on Wednesday. I assured her that, domo arigatou gozaimasu, everything was received. Today, my Tokyo landline rang. This time, it was a gentleman, inquiring again whether my tickets had arrived. Yes, they did! “And those of Niedermeyer-san?” Yes, right here!  If you want to know why Japanese automakers are first in the world, this is why: A reliable product, paired with impeccable customer service.

Compare that with the premiere car shows in China, and you will instantly understand why Chinese cars are mostly being shunned, both inside and outside of China: Mediocre products, paired with absolutely shoddy service. Chinese car shows try their level best to project that image to the world media, their only reliable part is their unreliability. Each year, accreditation to the Beijing or Shanghai show is an ordeal. This year in Shanghai, the system completely collapsed.

In China, you need to stand in line in strange places to pick up your pass. In Tokyo, the pass comes in the mail, and they call you twice and ask whether you received it. In Shanghai, they stopped picking up the phone a week before the show. Instead of surprising and delighting the foreign visitor, the Chinese car show plays right into the preconception, confirming that China is big, chaotic, and perplexing.

Once getting your pass to the Shanghai, or Beijing, auto show becomes delightful, watch out. Until then, don’t worry about Chinese cars flooding the world markets.