For the last several years at least one Chinese automaker has dared to show off its wares at the NAIAS, inevitably drawing, er, "constructive criticism" from the charitable among the journalist corps; jeers and cheap shots from the rest of us. Changfeng Motor was first in 2007, and since then BYD, Chamco, Geely, and Brilliance have all braved Detroit in January. This year it's Guangzhou's turn. GAC has had joint ventures with Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, and Fiat. Its Trumpchi sedan is based on Alfa Romeo 166 sedan underpinnings, as is its GS5 crossover. The China-market savvy among you may recognize it as the production version of the 2009 concept X-power (is anyone that China savvy?). The GS5 launched in March 2012 and was heralded by the local press as one of the best-looking crossovers currently made in China. Hmmm. Powered by a choice of naturally aspirated or turbocharged 2.0-liter engines in China, the price ranges from $20,000-37,000 in its home market.
From the show floor: The gathered press was informed that the GAC Group's presence in Detroit "signals the company's transition to a global company," but no specific expansion plans were divulged. California's AC Propulsion Inc. helped develop some of the electric motors in the Trumchi 4WD Hybrid and and GS5 BEV, both of which are homologated for pending sale in China.
We all know that China has lots of lithium and rare-earth metals -- materials necessary to make batteries and electric motors -- so here in Detroit, Guangzhou's cars are all electrified. First up is an all-wheel-drive hybrid version of the Trumpchi sedan, which sandwiches a 20-hp/34-lb-ft starter/generator motor between the 1.8-liter (142-hp/123-lb-ft) four-cylinder engine and transmission up front. At the rear, there's a second 34-hp/123-lb-ft permanent magnet motor on the rear axle. The transmission is a single-clutch automated-manual transmission that relies upon thrust from the rear motor to fill in the usual torque-sag that occurs when such transmission opens the clutch to change gears for twin-clutch levels of smoothness. Fuel economy from the heavier all-wheel-drive hybrid is said to improve by 30 percent, while acceleration to 62 mph is trimmed by 2 seconds to 10.9 seconds. A 1.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack handles the catch-and-release duties for regenerated and acceleration-boosting energy.
The GS5 on display features a full battery-electric drivetrain energized by a 35-kWh lithium-ion battery pack driving an induction motor with peak output ratings of 201 hp and 162 lb-ft (continuous ratings are 67 and 55). 0-62-mph acceleration takes just 8.5 seconds, it can climb a 30-percent grade, top speed is 104 mph, and the range is quoted as 100 miles at a constant 62 mph (figure way less on the EPA cycle).
Guangzhou's NAIAS display in the concourse area outside the main show floor may have been marred by an amateurish looping video, but its three reasonable vehicles have set a high bar for whatever Chinese brand follows in 2014.