New Car: Xiaopeng Auto Electric SUV

07 October 2016 | by Tom Phillips

After this year’s Beijing Motor Show, we were impressed by the quality of work from China’s carmakers to such an extent that we declared the event a watershed moment, one where the domestic brands made established Western brands look complacent.

While the home-grown designs on show were pretty generic, focussing almost exclusively on mid-size crossovers, the quality was certainly on the up. The first concept by Xiaopeng Motors – an electric crossover designed for young Chinese drivers in Tier 1 cities – continues the trend, and offers an interesting example of what design features a Chinese design team creating a car for China’s drivers see as important.

Xiaopeng Motors was formed in Guangzhou in 2014, and this concept is the first work from the firm’s Shanghai design centre, led by Zhang Lihua. Again, the car sticks to the crossover genre, and follows design themes familiar from VW Group/PSA crossover products of simple surfacing and complex lighting details – the latter in the form of DRLs in both the lamp unit and in the mask below, creating an X-shaped graphic.

Also notable is the roof-mounted camera that’s controlled by an app. It’s not for assisting in parking – door mirror-mounted cameras take care of that – it’s more for taking and sharing video and pictures of your trips, according the the designers. There is also a QR code hiding under the CHMSL that allows others to view the driver’s Wechat details – perfect for roadside sellers to pick up new client details while the car is stuck in traffic!

Although a concept in name, the interior’s appearance seems pretty close to production, particularly with the switches and buttons used throughout. What’s striking is the total focus on internet connectivity – increasingly essential in China and an area where the country is already right at the forefront.

The driver is recognised by the roof-mounted camera, loading their settings into the connected OS of the larger, driver-oriented centre screen. The screen is controlled by touch and voice, allowing the driver to stay connected to their online world at all times.

Also interesting to note is the renewed emphasis on storage. As Chinese drivers acquire more stuff, they need more places for keys, bags and snacks, with the large cut-out centre console allowing this, while the upper section of the console includes wireless charging for the driver’s phone.

The concept is yet another Chinese crossover, and it’s easy to write it off as such. However, it’s the details that matter here – the emergence of Chinese cars for China, complete with bespoke features to meet local needs, is something we’re following closely to see what new trends emerge.