NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will press ahead with its biennial auto show this week with local staff replacing representatives of Chinese automakers that will showcase cutting-edge electric vehicles and connected cars despite travel disruption from the caronavirus outbreak.
With the death toll from the virus outbreak in China nearing 500 and cases of the disease spreading across the globe, organizers of the show are reassuring visitors that officials arriving from China will not be in attendance.
“There will be no visitors or delegations from China at the Motor Show 2020,” Rajan Wadhera, president of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the show organizer, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Chinese companies have confirmed their booths would be staffed by Indian representatives or employees, he said.
China’s SAIC Motor Corp, Great Wall Motor Co and FAW Haima are set to showcase cars including electric vehicles, while more than 300 Chinese autoparts companies are also due to participate at the show.
With India this week identifying a third positive case of the virus in the country, SIAM has also printed advisories for visitors and set up an on-site first aid facility in partnership with a local hospital.
Several journalists and delegates were seen wearing masks as a media preview of the show opened on Wednesday.
The Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), which is organizing a parallel exhibition for autoparts companies, late on Tuesday said that visitors from China would not be attending and that displays of 30 Chinese exhibitors would be staffed by Indian representatives as a precaution.
Chinese auto companies have been working to woo Indian buyers with internet-connected cars, filling a breach left by Western and Japanese manufacturers not participating in this year’s show, including Fiat Chrysler, Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co.
They also hope the Indian market can help to combat slowing sales in China, which fell 8% in 2019 and are set to decline again in 2020.
Suzuki Motor Corp and Hyundai Motor Co have long dominated the Indian market with low-priced compact cars and have in recent years expanded into other categories.
Chinese automakers do not plan to compete in the entry-level segment, instead appealing to drivers with in-car technology, safety features and clean-energy vehicles.
Great Wall, which is making its India debut at the show, had intended to bring more than 100 delegates but all have canceled, including the president, a local executive said.
“The first and most important thing is the safety of people. Once this situation is taken care of, our senior executives will come to India,” said sales and marketing director Hardeep Brar.
Great Wall outlined plans to invest $1 billion to set up a manufacturing base in India.
Apart from Chinese carmakers, domestic companies such as Maruti and Tata are also also focusing on electric vehicles.
Maruti, which showed its concept FUTURO-e sport utility vehicle (SUV), said it plans to sell a million green energy vehicles over the next few years.
MG Motor, meanwhile, is showing off its Marvel X model, which boasts of autonomous features such as parking assist.
Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Euan Rocha, Christopher Cushing and David Goodman