SHANGHAI, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Global automakers gripped in an industry recession are wooing chances of the upcoming Shanghai auto expo as China overtook America to become the world's largest auto market in the first quarter.
A battle heated between 13 new car models by automakers including Mercedes-Benz and BMW will start in the show's 170,000 square meter showroom on Tuesday. The event has registered 1,500 foreign and domestic automakers, according to the organizers on Monday.
"The numbers are unprecedented, which reflect a confidence given by global automakers to the prospect of the Chinese market," said Wang Xia, deputy director of the auto industry division of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, one of the organizers of the biannual show.
China's auto sales hit a monthly record of 1.11 million vehicles in March, exceeding U.S. sales for the third month in a row, and up 5 percent from last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
This session of the Shanghai auto expo is likely to be the world's most influential auto show this year, said Wan Jifei, chairman of the council.
Mercedes-Benz is setting up a 2,500 square meter booth to accommodate its release of four new car models and Asian debut of six other models at the show.
Despite the plight in the home market, America's top three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have sustained their position at the show by jointly occupying 5,000 square meters of exhibiting area.
Xu Guozhen, vice president of Ford Motor (China) Ltd., said global car makers are active in the show in effort to expand their market share in the growing Chinese auto market, which has become the primary engine to pump energy into the gloomy global market.
Teaming up with its Chinese partner of Chang'an Motor, Ford is planning to present 37 car models at the show.
The Shanghai auto expo has also been eyed by China's domestic automakers as a platform to compete with their foreign counterparts, said Wang Xia.
Geely, the largest independent Chinese automaker, is displaying22 car models, and another home player, Chery, is also having a massive displays of 24 models.
Domestic carmakers including Geely and BYD announced earlier that they would unveil new-energy vehicles at the show.
New-energy autos are electric or electric-hybrid vehicles.
Miao Yu, vice minister of Industry and Information Technology, said on Sunday that the Chinese government will allocate 10 billion yuan (1.46 billion U.S. dollars) to boost technology innovation in the domestic automobile industry, which is part of a comprehensive plan to enlarge new-energy auto production.
According to the plan, China will have annual production capacity of 500,000 new-energy vehicles by 2011, which means 5 percent of new vehicles should be powered by new energy.