The automotive industry grows with the highways

By XING YI in Chengdu and ZHOU LIHUA in Wuhan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-06-23 09:30

The FAW-Volkswagen Automotive plant in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The G42 Shanghai-Chengdu highway has given the city’s auto industry a boost. CHINA DAILY

Zhang Kuihong, 79, remembers the day China’s first highway was opened to traffic over thirty years ago.

“The weather was very beautiful. Sitting in a helicopter, I saw the road reflecting sunlight, like a golden dragon crouching on the ground,” said Zhang, deputy chief engineer of the Shanghai-Jiading Expressway.

“Back then, cars could only go 80 kilometers an hour and the Chinese auto industry was underdeveloped,” he said. “Some experts felt that the construction of a highway with a speed limit of 120 km / h was unnecessary. The Shanghai-Jiading highway was therefore launched as a pilot program.”

In 1988, the 15.9 km road from Shanghai to the satellite city of Jiading was completed, marking an important milestone in the development of the highway in China.

Three decades later, the country’s motorway network spans 160,000 km, ranking first in the world.

As the highways have developed, the development of the automobile industry in China has also turned into the expressway.

In the 1980s, China was still widely regarded as a “kingdom of the bicycle”. But now it is becoming a “kingdom on four wheels”. It has been the world’s largest automaker since 2009, and last year it had 281 million automobiles on the road and 418 million licensed drivers, according to the Department of Public Safety.

The pilot highway that began in Shanghai in 1988 now stretches 1,960 km west to Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

Known as the G42 Shanghai-Chengdu Highway, it runs parallel to the Yangtze River and serves as a transport artery for industrial chains along the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

Cheng Changchun, dean of the Jiangsu Yangtze River Economic Research Institute, said that the G42 highway connects three economic engines: the Chengdu-Chongqing group of cities on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, the group of cities around Wuhan , in the province of Hubei, in the middle reached, and the delta of the Yangtze river.

“The fast motorway coupled with cheap river navigation has boosted the integration of industrial chains,” he said. “Convenient transportation between cities along the Yangtze River plays a vital role in their economic development.”

Every day, thousands of metric tons of steel sheet for cars are produced at Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp’s factories in Wuhan, and then transported by trucks, trains and ships to various car manufacturers across the country.

Yang Rui, chief engineer of the company’s cold-rolled steel plant, said the boom in the domestic auto industry in the early 2000s prompted the company to produce steel sheets of high quality, and the factory was built in 2005.

“Over the past 15 years, we have made continuous progress and now our steel is used to make over 3 million cars every year,” Yang said. “Wuhan’s location, the transportation hub for waterways, highways and railways, has made it much easier to sell our steel across the country.”

Some of the steel is transported to the assembly line at the FAW-Volkswagen Automotive plant in Chengdu, where a newly assembled Jetta car descends the line every 58 seconds.

Gabriel Gonzalez, senior production manager at FAW-Volkswagen Automotive, has spent more than 24 years in the automotive industry in Mexico, Europe and the United States and now oversees production at the Jetta plant in Chengdu.

“I must have learned a lot from the Chinese,” said Gonzalez, who arrived in China two and a half years ago. “It’s all in the cell phone. Everything is digital here in China… Right now China is in a very good position in the automotive industry.

Riding the wave of autonomous driving and the electrification of cars, China has become not only a car maker and consumer, but also a designer and exporter.

Li Jirong, deputy director of the Shanghai Customs Statistics Bureau, said car exports from Shanghai ports increased from 54,000 units in 2016 to 205,000 units last year, and many were branded electric cars. national.

“Last year, cars made in China were exported to 128 countries and regions,” Li said. “They were not only sold to developing countries, but many were exported to developed economies such as China. European Union, Australia and the United States. “

“The numbers speak volumes. I am proud to have witnessed the growth of the Chinese auto industry, and I hope that in the near future there will be more cars made in China on the roads of the world.

Cang Wei contributed to this story.

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