SHANGHAI — Volkswagen unveiled an electric luxury sedan that promises a 700-kilometer (435-mile) battery range as global and Chinese automakers showed their latest SUVs, sedans and muscle cars Tuesday at the world’s biggest auto show.
Auto Shanghai 2023 reflects the intense competition in China’s fast-growing electric vehicle market after the ruling Communist Party poured billions of dollars into promoting the technology. China accounted for two-thirds of global electrics sales last year.
Brands including General Motors, BMW and Nissan and Chinese rivals BYD Auto and NIO unveiled dozens of new EVs in the cavernous Shanghai exhibition center. Brands touted faster charging, satellite-linked navigation and entertainment, and the future possibility of self-driving technology.
Volkswagen’s ID.7 sedan, the new flagship model for its electric vehicles, was one of 28 models displayed by the German automaker, half of them electrified.
“We are turbo-charging our electric campaign,” said the CEO of VW’s passenger car brand, Thomas Schäfer, who rode onto the stage aboard an electric minibus.
Automakers are looking to China to drive sales growth at a time of slack American and European demand, but that requires them to invest to develop competitive models in a crowded market. Established global brands face pressure from ambitious Chinese newcomers and to meet government sales quotas for electrics. Many are forming partnerships to split soaring development costs.
China is “playing a leading role in the industry’s electric and digital transformation,” said Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley in a recorded message played on a video screen.
Electrics accounted for just over 1 in 4 of the 23.6 million SUVs, sedans and minivans sold last year in China while sales of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles declined.
BMW AG showed an all-electric lineup including two new models, the i7 M70L and XM Label Red. The German sport luxury brand’s M760Le was shown in China for the first time.
GM debuted an electric SUV, the Buick Electra E5, ahead of the auto show. Toyota Motor Co. unveiled two new models for its bZ line of zero-emissions vehicles. Toyota also displayed a prototype self-driving taxi developed with China’s Pony.ai, a leading competitor in the country’s fast-evolving autonomous vehicle industry.
For the first time since 2019, executives flew in from the United States, Europe and Japan for the show after anti-virus controls that cut off most travel into and out of China were lifted in December. VW flew in its entire board of directors and that of Porsche in a show of commitment to the Chinese market.
The organizers said automakers would debut 100 new models, 70 of them electric, according to Chinese media.
Drivers in the world’s biggest auto market bought 5.4 million pure-electric vehicles last year — about two-thirds of the global total of 8 million — plus 1.5 million gasoline-electric hybrids. That was more than one-quarter of total auto sales of 23.6 million. This year’s EV sales are forecast to rise another 30%.
Beijing is winding down government support and shifting the burden to automakers by requiring them to earn credits for EV sales.