All the motoring metal at Shanghai - and what's coming to New Zealand
Don't you just love body language - the way in which without even realising it, people tell a story via such actions as eye movement, body posture and facial expressions?
We've just encountered a perfect example of body language. It was at the Shanghai Motor Show, the world's biggest auto show, hosted by the world's most populated city, in the world's most populated country.
China is also the world's largest car market. More than 28 million new vehicles were sold there last year - a massive number that makes a mockery of the 147,000 new vehicle sales in New Zealand for 2016.
An interesting point: while China has an increasingly strong domestic vehicle manufacturing industry, more than half the new cars currently sold in China have foreign nameplates. German marques are particularly strong, with an estimated one in every five new cars sold bearing German nameplates.
And that gets us back to body language.
At the 2017 Shanghai show one of the very big displays is by a German brand called Borgward. This company was formed by Carl Borgward in Bremen shortly after World War 1 and which at one stage was responsible for 60 per cent of Germany's auto exports, including to China.
Borgward encountered financial troubles and went bust in 1961. But now it is back again, revived by Borgward's grandson, Christian Borgward, and largely bankrolled by Chinese auto brand Foton.
It is flat out building new-generation vehicles in China - particularly SUVs that helps meet current massive demand for this type of vehicle: in the opening two months of 2017, SUV sales in China topped 1.6 million units, up 22 per cent on the same period in 2016.
Could this explain all the body language involving four young women at the desk fronting the Borgward display at the Shanghai Motor Show?
Look closely at the photograph accompanying this article. The middle two of the quartet are European and obviously happy to be there - just like the Borgward brand. And the outside pair? Try as we might, we couldn't get them to smile.
Was this because the Chinese car industry is so used to joint venturing with European vehicle manufacturers that it's no big deal? Maybe the two young Chinese women didn't quite understand the significance of the product on display behind them?
Or maybe they'd simply had a gutsful of standing all day behind a desk, posing for the estimated 10,000 people who attended the first of two media days prior to the show opening to the public.
This auto show really is very big. It's at the city's National Exhibition and Convention Centre which, at 1.47 million square metres is the world's biggest single building - a giant clover-shaped facility with 400,000 square metres of interior exhibition space.
The Shanghai show is so massively big it is impossible for a journalist to spend any amount of time at every exhibit in the space of just one day. So we simply went for a wander, to see what we could see that was of relevance to New Zealand.
It didn't take long to find.
The BMW stand featured a beautiful compact SUV that is the brand's X2 concept. Word is this vehicle will go into production next year, and will slot between the smaller X1 - it will be built on the same platform - and the medium-sized X3. This concept is attractive, particularly at the rear, and let's hope the production version retains at least some of the lines.
Citroen used the big show to officially unveil its first true SUV - the C5 Aircross. A medium-sized vehicle, it is due for launch in China later this year and in other parts of the world next year. And as they say, timing is everything - as we spotted the Aircross, we received an email from Citroen New Zealand divisional manager Simon Rose stating the new vehicle will put Citroen into an evolving market that that it has not previously been able to compete in.
Across the way was fellow French brand, Peugeot, which displayed a trio of SUVs, a couple of which are scheduled to arrive in New Zealand. We already have the small 2008, and on display were the new 3008 and the larger 5008 - and in the background were marketing phrases such as "Two In a Row!" and "Love Dust", neither of which we quite understood.
But how was this for a marketing initiative? Famous British brand MG, which is now owned by China's SAIC Motor Corporation, has signed a new marketing relationship with the famous Liverpool Football Club. On hand at Shanghai was one of the club's most famous strikers, Ian Rush, to help launch a series of You'll Never Walk Alone special edition vehicles.
If you don't know the relevance of those words, you should. It's a song that is traditionally sung at football matches around the world, this tradition started by Liverpool in the early 1960s. No doubt SAIC will be hoping there will soon be thousands of Chinese belting out the song while behind the wheels of their MGs.
A significant vehicle at the Honda stand was a new CR-V. This good-looking compact SUV is due for its New Zealand launch in 2017 - Honda NZ has already run out of stocks of the current model. At Shanghai the display included a hybrid, but we understand this is not for NZ.
Then it was on to the Ford stand. Once we had dragged our eyes off the sensational lines of the Ford GT supercar, we turned our attention to the much more sedate-looking Edge SUV, which will replace the Territory early next year. We've been forecasting this vehicle's arrival for months now - we're looking forward to its NZ arrival.
Talking about pending arrivals, SAIC-owned LDV had its first ute, and its first SUV, on display - and both will soon be launched in New Zealand.
The ute is the T60 which will be here this year, and among the standard versions on show at Shanghai was a fully-loaded off-road version that got plenty of attention. And the SUV is the D90, a Land Cruiser-sized model that will be launched in New Zealand either late this year or early next year.
But one vehicle brand we won't see in New Zealand is Borgward, because it isn't built in right-hand drive. Then again we also won't see numerous other Chinese brands, many with unpronounceable names, that were on show at Shanghai.
But when combined into one massive auto show, they really do underline the growing strength of the Chinese auto industry and the influence it will surely have on the worldwide motor vehicle scene. Perhaps that was the most telling body language of all.