Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chery Riich M1

China's government-owned Chery Auto will launch a B-segment hatchback called the Riich M1 at Auto Shanghai 2009. The Riich M1 is the first car to be produced from the five Faira concepts designed for the automaker by Italy's Torino Design and shown at Auto China 2008.

The B-segment car is aimed at young urbanites that live in the tier-one cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. It is expected to compete against the well-established Suzuki Swift, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, providing a cheaper alternative to the Japanese import vehicles.

Chery claims that beneath the M1's 'cute and bubbly' exterior lies an interior design that features a number of hi-tech options and luxurious details. We'll soon find out for ourselves.


Recent brand reshuffling from Geely has yielded three sub-brands: GLEAGLE (fashion, dream and passion), EMGRAND (luxury and power) and Shanghai EngLon (classic British-style design). The EMGRAND brand has released the first official photos of its EC718 production vehicle, set to be unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2009.

The EC718 is a C-segment-sized vehicle which will be offered in both sedan and hatch derivatives, and source power from 1.8-liter D-CVVT diesel and 2.0-liter gasoline engines. It is set to compete against the Chery A3, Lifan 620 and other domestic vehicles in the fast-growing and ultra-competitive domestic C segment, which sits a notch below the import C segment because of its lower price band.

As with many of the cars being released at Auto Shanghai 2009, official press material from Geely contains scarce information about the new car. But as one of only handful of production cars at the show, it should provide a realistic barometer of how far the Chinese cars have come in terms of design and technology.

Full-scale model of 5th Peugeot Design Competition winner revealed in Shanghai

A life-sized model of Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar's RD concept, for which the 26 year old Columbian designer won the 5th Peugeot Design competition, is on display at the Peugeot stand in Shanghai. The 'RD' concept was chosen via an online internet poll and a competition jury headed by Peugeot's Managing Director, Jean Philippe Collin in September last year.

The theme for the 2008 competition was 'Imagine the Peugeot in the worldwide megapolis of tomorrow'. Designers were asked to create images of a car 'for use in the center of the great urban cities of the future' which nonetheless incorporated recognized Peugeot styling cues and embodied key 21st century values. Four criteria were essential: environmental friendliness, social harmony, interactive mobility and economic efficiency.

The RD is a low-riding, squat three-wheeled single-seater promising on-road agility, ease of operation and 'irreproachable road-holding', says Peugeot, and looking solid and robust as well as futuristic. Yet whilst it retains an outline reminiscent of classic custom-built 'choppers', the RD reverses the usual trike layout by having its wide single wheel at the rear. The driver thus looks out from a full-length screen between the front wheels: think of this as a lower-slung, more aggressive modern take on the bubble-car theme, perhaps - Heinkel meets Hell's Angel.

Access to the driver's capsule is via the top-hinged front screen, which doubles as an opening canopy, and the driver's molded seat is nestled in front of the motor and electric propulsion system. The driver uses joystick- and tiller-influenced controls, a head-up display system and voice-messaging, which reduces the need for switchgear, an instrument panel and other cabin clutter.

The articulated structure gives flexibility to the RD's ride and handling, and 'the ability to easily thread its way through urban traffic'. Thanks to its electric powertrain, the RD is both silent and emissions-free.

Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar is from the small industrial town of Tunja and says that he has been working with clay, sculpting and modeling, since childhood. He abandoned his language studies to attend the Industrial Design School at the National University of Bogota, and has recently graduated.

The competition attracted over 2,500 entries from 95 different countries; a shortlist of 30 was selected, and then over 132,000 votes were cast online to choose ten finalists. The RD was pronounced the winner at last autumn's Paris Motor Show, and Torres Tovar has received a prize of €10,000, an XBox 360 console and a 1/45-scale model of his design - as well as a very worthwhile and well-deserved boost to his CV and the start of his career.

Geely GT Tiger concept

One of the most dramatic designs sporting a Chinese OEM badge at the 2009 Shanghai auto show was the GT or 'Geely Tiger'. Although attendees of the Beijing auto show in April 2008 will be already familiar with the basic sports coupe exterior shape, the 2009 version now features a complete four-seat interior accessed by working scissor doors and a new maroon metallic paint job plus engine details for the first time.

Powered by a 300bhp 3.5 V6 unit, it is fractionally wider, taller and shorter than the Maserati Gran Turismo it could rival, with a shorter wheelbase (2805mm vs. 2942mm). The large 'growling' but 'butterfly wing-topped' front grille features a series of lozenge-shaped and chrome-accented holes, while a forward character line extends from the front wheelarch to move almost horizontally back before undercutting another line coming from the rear wheelarch. Exaggerated brightwork wraps around the tail lights to help define the dynamism of the rear of the car and bisects another line rising up from the center of the color-coded bumper section to form a subtle 'x' graphic on both sides.

Geely's design chief Mike Ma told Car Design News the car was designed by Giugiaro and is destined for production in 2010. The doors still have no conventional handles, opening instead through intelligent sensing and identification, and the view behind is catered for via a hidden rear view mirror using video imaging technology.

Aside from these showcar touches the inside all looks very much production-ready with smart horizontally-ribbed sports seat cushions, bolstered black seat backs, a straightforward high center stack and console with red-lit controls to convey a sporty feel and a regular steering wheel and black and maroon IP.

Along with the IG city car (see separate report) it was one of the stars of the Geely exhibit and shows the growing confidence of the brand.