A tale of two cities in pandemic times
On a day when Delhi announced it will enforce a six-day-long lockdown to check the massive surge in Covid-19 cases, Shanghai opened doors to one of the most followed automotive exhibitions. That the Shanghai Auto Show 2021 is being organized at a real-world location and not virtually paints a contrast to what is the scene in Delhi and, in fact, in several Indian cities.
China has put off a number of automotive exhibitions last year when the Covid-19 pandemic spread from here and became a massive threat to the world. Of note were the Beijing Motor Show and Chengdu Motor Show. But while information isn’t quite easy to flow out of the country, these real-world events being eventually organized may show that life has returned to near normal in the country. This is also highlighted by the sky-rocketing auto sales in the country that witnessed a solid spike in the first quarter of 2021 calendar year.
As such, Shanghai Auto Show has become a major focal point for several manufacturers – both local as well as global – with a number of key products ready for showcase in the event which starts from today (April 19). Whether it is the Nissan X-Trail update or the global debut of Lexus ES or Honda’s e:prototype or A6 e-tron Concept, the lineup is packed to the brim. The buzz is there for all to see and car makers are raring to not just woo visitors here but also showcase their intentions for an electric future.
Comparing the Chinese auto industry – the world’s biggest, to India’s auto sector may not be entirely fair even if India is quite a big market in its own right. But the market has also come under yet another shade of gloom in the midst of rising Covid-19 cases. While reports suggest Shanghai saw just two new imported Covid-19 cases on Sunday and had zero local cases while Delhi saw over 25,000 cases on the same day.
Major metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai are reporting mounting cases with health services under severe strain. Delhi, after having a weekend curfew, announced on Monday that a six-day lockdown will be put into place that clamps down on movement. Memories of Auto Expo, held in February of 2020, have already begun fading and while the auto industry showed resilience in the months after national lockdown was lifted, an uncertain period ahead hardly augers well with companies once again limiting workers at plants to maintain social-distancing norms.
In all of this, curfews and lockdowns are expected to hit sales hard irrespective of duration. And yet, the need of the hour would and should obviously be on slowing the pace of transmission.
Many continue to argue about China’s internal policies and the cloak of secrecy there. But the fact that Shanghai Auto Show takes place exactly at the time when Delhi re-enters lockdown days, does seek to paint a big contrast.