I'll Have a Piece of Cloud, Please

January 15, 2008
As we've said in previous posts, the Chinese automakers at the Detroit show just didn't look quite ready for prime time in a lot of ways. Outside the obvious questions such as whether U.S. buyers have the confidence to buy Chinese-built cars, the designs for these automakers relegated to Cobo's basement looked derivative at best, press materials and conferences were ill-focused, and the cars themselves just weren't up to the standards that we've come to expect, in terms of basics like paint and trim.

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But the automaker that stands out is Bei Jing Li Shi Guang Ming Automobile Design Co., Ltd., or LSGM for short. The cars shown by LSGM, three models with the names The Book of Songs, Detroit Fish, and A Piece of Cloud, were original to put it very politely. The one named Detroit Fish, to put it bluntly, looks like some designers had been watching the Flintstones a little too much.

Unlike the vehicles displayed by the other Chinese automakers present, LSGM's plans for the U.S. involve so-called neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), of the type you'd drive around a gated community, campus, or dense urban area at low speed. Each of the models shown uses an all-electric propulsion system with a choice of lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries. Prices would range from $3800 with lead-acid cells up to $9200 with sophisticated lithium ion ones. Top speed for each is about 45 km/h, or almost 30 mph. Range is about 160 km (100 miles) with the lead-acid batteries.

This all might seem laughable, but representatives of the company were determined to be back here at Detroit next year with production examples of these vehicles — which were rough-edged but showing a lot of potential — ready for sale.

Though we're still not sure if and when a full-fledged Chinese car will go on sale in the U.S., NEV makers, such as U.S.-based GEM, beware. The Chinese are coming very soon.

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