China prepares to stage its first world championship Grand Prix this week as it hosts Formula One for the first time. The 5.451km (3.387-mile) Shanghai International Circuit is the second new venue to appear on the 2004 calendar, after Bahrain. The race is scheduled to last 56 laps; a total distance of 305.256km.
Although Michelin is confident it will perform well, Shanghai will highlight the ability of Formula One teams to react to new situations. Pascal Vasselon, Michelin’s F1 programme manager commented: “Given our experience in Bahrain earlier this year, choosing tyres for a previously unknown circuit such as Shanghai might appear quite routine – but that’s not the case at all. Certain corners at Shanghai have a unique configuration and two of them – which have an almost snail-like profile when viewed from above – are likely to put a greater load on tyres than anywhere else on the calendar.
“Generally, we expect the rate of wear to be fairly even left to right and front to rear, which makes things a little bit easier. From what we can see, the track surface looks fairly smooth and non- abrasive – another little difficulty we had to factor in when finalising the best tyre compromise. When you encounter a new circuit like this, with lots of directional changes, it is best to select compounds that have a slightly broader operational spectrum than usual. And to further minimise any risk of error, we will be taking tyres that have previously been used in racing conditions.”
The organisers of last year’s CITEXPO, China’s International Tire Expo, were so satisfied with the results of the Shanghai show, that they have promised the second exhibition to be even bigger and better.
The CITEXPO is already the biggest international tyre exhibition in China and has attracted numerous international exhibitors and visitors from over 40 countries, including many European countries.
The exhibition will again take place in the Shanghai East Asia Exhibition Center, from 22-24 September this year. The organisers, from Reliable International Exhibition Services, Hong Kong, are aiming to make the exhibition “one of the biggest and most famous tyre exhibitions in the world.” To achieve this they will focus not only on players from the domestic Chinese tyre market, but also on the global marketplace bringing manufacturers, distributors, dealers, retailers, buyers, professionals, and other interested parties together in one venue.
Following year-long negotiations Maxxis International has won an OE contract to supply General Motors. A new multi-year contract specifies that Maxxis will supply its brand of light truck tyre, LT225/75R16, to a General Motors ‘vehicle programme’ in the third quarter of 2006.
The internationally renowned exhibition, Automechanika, will take place in Shanghai for the first time this year. Companies from 18 countries have already booked floor-space in the Shanghai New International Expo Center, where Automechanika will be held on 2-4 December 2004. According to the organisers the exhibition will be supported by an abundant schedule of events and seminars. The Automechanika Shanghai is regarded as a “strong international meeting point for the automobile industry,” say the organisers from Messe Frankfurt.
Michelin’s Asia-Pacific president Jean-Marc Francois is quoted in the press as saying that the company will invest heavily in the Chinese market, to the tune of several hundred million Dollars over the next ten years. Michelin already has joint ventures in Shenyang and Shanghai, which would benefit from the cash injection, although some may go towards establishing new factories and in marketing the brand.
GM is to extend its factory at Shanghai to increase capacity from 500,000 units to 760,000 by 2006. No cost has been revealed, but press estimates are around $241 million. Another GM joint venture, manufacturing light trucks, is also set to more than double capacity by 2006, to 336,000 units.
Car parts producer Visteon is moving its Asian HQ from Tokyo to Shanghai in order to capitalise on the growth in demand for vehicles in China. Visteon has five joint ventures in China, all supplying the domestic industry, and last year they turned over $550 million, compared with $350 million from Japan.
Auto Shanghai 2003, the 10th International Automobile and Manufacturing Exhibition, proved to be a great success, with 730 exhibitors from 23 countries and a show area of 81,000 square metres. The event ran from 21st to 25th April and attracted almost 200,000 visitors to the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.The 200 or so exhibitors from the automotive supply industry included a group of 50 companies from Germany.The show was held against a background of rising numbers of cases of SARS and in view of this problem, the organisers took a number of precautionary measures. Shanghai’s municipal authorities took the decision to close the show three days early in order to avoid the expected floods of visitors from other regions of China over the weekend. In general, this was welcomed by exhibitors, many of whom said that the visitor response had been so positive that they had achieved their trade fair objectives, despite the early closure.
Continental Teves plans a joint venture with the Shanghai Automotive Brake Company (SABC) – subject to the approval of the Chinese authorities. The aim is to provide the market with a complete brake systems package from one source. SABC already manufactures Continental Teves brake components under license, and produces components for both Volkswagen and General Motors.
There are reports that Michelin is on the verge of forming a joint venture with Chinese tyre maker Shanghai Huayi Group Corporation (SHGC). Michelin would not comment, but SHGC has been quoted locally as saying that the deal has been done and is waiting formal government approval.