Shanghai motor show 2023 gallery: every new car revealed

Yet, in a show where more is very much more, the most distinctive, memorable stand was one with just two cars on view. Polestar chose to present the new 4 coupé-SUV face-to-face with the larger 3 on a plinth surrounded by more than 80,000 live red tulips. It’s an unforgettable, dramatic visual, and one that really builds on the Swedish brand’s flair for bold visual design. It exemplified Polestar’s growth from a Volvo spin-off into a standalone brand through the development of a clear and appealing identity. 

It helps, of course, that the Swedish firm can draw on the resources and technology of its parent, Chinese giant Geely. And Zeekr and Lynk&Co, two of Geely’s other firms with European intentions that use platforms shared with Polestar and Volvo, both had substantial presences.

Zeekr didn’t have any previously unseen models to display, but did use its press conference to announce its launch in the European market. New regional boss Spiros Fotinos was as bold to claim the brand would become “a major player” within a decade. Bold talk, but it certainly has the resources to do so.

While Zeekr operates in the premium Chinese EV space, perhaps the leading brand in that area – and the closet parallel to Polestar – is Nio, which recently launched in Europe – and is set to arrive in the UK in the next year. While the European expansion has perhaps been slower than planned, in China Nio has really proven itself as one of the top premium firms, and its customers – or users, as the firm puts it – genuinely seem passionate about the brand.

You only had to see Nio boss William Li try to negotiate his stand while being constantly asked for selfies to see the genuine passion. Nio has really developed a sense of community among its owners, another example of how important brand is in this game.

Of course, the long-established European firms don’t need to build a brand: the challenge is trying to ensure those brands still appeal to customers in the transition to EVs. 

Volkswagen used the show to launch the ID 7, a sleek saloon that is bang on trend for the market, alongside the whole family of ID models (in multiple forms, thanks to VW’s various joint ventures). Across the way, there was also a big display from Jetta, the firm’s China-only budget spin-off brand that was named to reflect China’s love for the classic saloon.

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