A 25-minute wait. That's how long you have to wait to get inside the Xaomi stand where the SU7 is on display, the super saloon launched four weeks ago that has already reached 100,000 orders. To see it there are those who pass, those who push, and it is not even a day open to the public.

The air among journalists, influencers, managers, dealers and others who crowd the halls of this Beijing motor show is incredibly buzzing. Everyone is eager to see the next world premiere live, because there are so many (117 to be precise), one after the other, like in a toy land where the surprises never end, and this includes a flying, quadricopter-style car with eight carbon propellers on the roof. "For you, we expect to be on the market in two years', explains an Xpeng brand manager with a smile, who a moment later asks for my WeChat contact to send me the brochure in English, "Look, I'll show you this other model that we want to launch next year and it can fly two people!"

His optimism is infectious, as is the optimism of those who showcase China's mundane, but nonetheless futuristic, hyper-digital, strictly electric cars that want to try driving themselves.

It's hard not to get carried away by the euphoria, but there are those who take part in the festivities by standing somewhat on the sidelines, that is the traditional car manufacturers, primarily the European ones.

Chinese car superstars

You can tell as you walk through the pavilions the metric for measuring the hype is the number of people looking at the cars, but above all, they are busy filming them armed with smartphones and tripods.

All the attention is on them, on the Chinese cars, and the reason is simple: electric ones are more innovative and therefore more desirable than Western ones.

<p>The crowd for the presentation of the Zeekr Mix multispace</p>

The crowd for the presentation of the Zeekr Mix multispace

Beijing Exhibition 2024

The Denza Z9 GT

Beijing Exhibition 2024

The Xaomi SU7

After all, you don't need a specialist eye to realise that what you see on the stands of Audi, Cadillac, Ford, Mercedes or Jaguar Land Rover is something already seen, which is beautiful but doesn't excite. Either because it is yet another 'variation on a theme', or because, more simply, they are cars that will no longer surprise you in 2024.

Yet there are attempts. Volkswagen, for example, presented a concept car called the ID Code that was designed specifically to respond to the Chinese market, both in terms of style and technology. It is an appreciable exercise, but the feeling is that of a 'pursuit' for its own sake.

Beijing Exhibition 2024

La concept car Volkswagen ID Code

The Bavarians going against the trend

The air of resignation among western brands returns positively to BMW, which is in fact the only manufacturer to bring a truly new car to the Beijing Show, the Mini Aceman, which is built in China and sold worldwide.

Beijing Exhibition 2024

The conclusion of the press conference on the BMW stand

Mini Aceman SE (2024)

Presentation of the MINI Aceman

On the stand are those BMW models that have made us turn up our noses in Europe, either because they have too big a grille, or because they have too many LED lights instead of chrome. It is precisely these cars that we like here and which have allowed BMW to beat Mercedes and Audi.

The German managers do not comment on sales at the conference but recall - speaking fluent Chinese - how China is the brand's second home and that 'BMW is in China for China and the world' because 'Chinese consumer preferences bring innovation', and off they go with the audience's applause.

Stellantis not to be seen

If BMW has figured out how to make itself well liked around here, there are those who decided not to show up at all: Alfa Romeo, Citroen, DS, Peugeot, Maserati and even Ferrari. Justified absentees? Depends on one's point of view. With the exception of Ferrari, which has not participated in motor shows for some time - unlike Lamborghini, which presented the new Urus in Beijing - for the brands in the Stellantis orbit, the signal is not positive and confirms both Maserati's and DS's difficulties. For Alfa Romeo there is an issue of unavailability of cars suitable for this market.

Hence the hope that this is a tactical absence, waiting for the arrival of new cars for real. And perhaps the fruits of the alliance with the Chinese Leapmotor will come in a big way.

Lamborghini at the Beijing Motor Show

Lamborghini the only Italian brand present at the Beijing Motor Show

Now it's our turn

I return from Beijing with one certainty: this show has consecrated China as the new hub of the automotive world. The strength of this country lies not only in the size of its market, but in the overwhelming drive for innovation that only such a young, dynamic society with extremely high internal competition can have.

If we invented the car, they are reinventing it, and they might as well make it fly. Imagining competing with all this is not easy, as the trade tensions with Europe are understandable, as are the political concerns for our industrial system. But the automotive revolution is happening here and cannot be stopped. The only way not to be overwhelmed by it is to participate in it as open-mindedly as possible.

We can and must learn to 'fly cars' too, but we must not let fear stop us.