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A Million Cars A Month: Top German Brands All Revved Up For Beijing Auto Show

Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and other top automakers know that the Chinese market is huge – and the potential is even bigger. All the best wares are on display in Beijing.

Made for China? (Tim Wang)
Made for China? (Tim Wang)
Peter Eck

BEIJING - Packed crowds, cars burnished to high sheen – at first glance, the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition may appear no different than other major auto shows in Detroit, Geneva and Frankfurt.

But the importance of this particular show to international automakers is unique, and can be measured by facts like this: in the huge country that is China, more than one million cars are registered every month. This means that winning or losing just 0.1% of the market can mean selling (or not selling) more than 10,000 additional vehicles per year.

So competition at "Auto China 2012" between the big fish with huge market share and the wannabes, both domestic and foreign, is fierce. And, as they do on the streets of central Beijing, the German brands play a particularly heady role – because the car models that widen the eyes of China's fast-multiplying, upwardly mobile middle class are to be found at the large and consummately professional-looking stands of the German manufacturers.

Volkswagen, Mercedes and Germany's other top automakers have long understood this, and accord the Chinese show a commensurate amount of importance. They even present special, made for China "stretch" models of familiar models that they don't show anywhere else. Audi, for example, is showing a slightly stretched A6 for the first time, and BMW offers the 3 Series with an additional 11 cm (4.3 in) on the wheelbase. The star feature of the Mercedes stand is its so-called "concept style coupé" – a sporty four-door model based on the new A-Class – that can be expected to be manufactured pretty much as presented, although the company is being cagey about whether the car will ultimately be baptized CLA or not.

By comparison to the CLA, the Denza (a Mercedes/BYD Chinese brand) electric car based on the old B-Class, looks austere, even boring, although that doesn't apply to what's under the hood. The car hits the market next year.

It's hardly a surprise that Porsche scheduled the world launch of the Cayenne GTS for the Beijing show: on the one hand, the timeframe was ideal in terms of the company's product planning, and for another the derivative of the luxury SUV is ideal for China – in no other market on the planet does Porsche sell so many Cayennes as it does here.

Other VW brands didn't offer any particular novelties, except for the Urus design produced by VW subsidiary Lamborghini. Also presented as a concept car, the Urus is sure to go into production and Lambo boss Stefan Winkelmann is already saying they're aiming to sell 3,000 of the SUV per year.

French cars weren't getting a lot of buzz at the show, and what attention they were getting was going to Citroen. Its futuristic Shooting Brake DS9 appeals to a market where expensive models cannot be big or conspicuous enough.

One of the big stars of the Beijing show was without a doubt the Jaguar F, presented in a coupé version. The F will presumably hit the market in 2013, at prices above 50,000 euros.

And the Chinese carmakers? They keep on learning, and this year markedly better quality and a much more professional finish characterized their new models. For Europeans, however, the problem with Chinese cars is the design -- particularly smaller models, where Chinese manufacturers tend to lean to forms and lines seen a decade ago in Korean cars. The larger the car, the more Baroque the lines – Chinese brands like BYD, Geely, Brillance, and Roewe really need to work on forging their own, authentic looks before they stand any kind of chance on the European market.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Tim Wang

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Why Poland's Draconian Anti-Abortion Laws May Get Even Crueler

Poland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Several parties vying in national elections on Oct. 15 are competing for conservative Catholic voters by promising new laws that could put women's lives at risk.

Photograph of a woman with her lower face covered holding a red lightning bolt - the symbol of the Women's Strike - during the demonstration outside Kaczynski's house.

November 28, 2022, Warsaw, Poland: A protester holds a red lightning bolt - the symbol of the Women's Strike - during the demonstration outside Kaczynski's house.

Attila Husejnow/ZUMA
Katarzyna Skiba


In 2020, Poland was rocked by mass protests when the country’s Constitutional Tribunal declared abortions in the case of severe fetal illness or deformity illegal. This was one of only three exceptions to Poland’s ban on abortions, which now only applies in cases of sexual assault or when the life of the mother is at risk.

Since the 2020 ruling, several women have filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after giving birth to children with severe fetal abnormalities, many of whom do not survive long after birth. One woman working at John Paul II hospital in the Southern Polish town of Nowy Targ told Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza that a patient was forced to give birth to a child suffering from acrania a lethal disorder where infants are born without a skull.

However, even in cases where abortion is technically legal, hospitals and medical professionals in Poland still often refuse to perform the procedure, citing moral objections.

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