China was the road to the future for foreign brands at the Shanghai Auto Show on Tuesday, who are racing to catch up with Chinese competitors in the crucial electric vehicle market. EVs make up a quarter of car sales in China, the world’s largest car market, and dozens of new models from domestic and Western brands were unveiled at the country’s first auto show since Covid restrictions were lifted. Domestic brands command 81 percent of the EV market in China, according to analysts at Counterpoint Research, and European industry titans were at pains to emphasise the importance of doing business in China. “China is the place to be,” BMW executive Frank Weber told a news conference. “Munich is where we come from, but China is where we are at home.” Almost 70 percent of BMW’s newest operating system involves functions specific to the Chinese market and the company has tripled its research and development there in the past three years, BMW said. “What moves Chinese customers today will move the world tomorrow,” another BMW executive, Oliver Zipse, told the audience as he presented the i Vision Dee, a colour-changing electric sports sedan. Fellow German carmaker Volkswagen announced it would invest one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in a new development centre for electric vehicles in southern China as part of its “in China, for China” strategy. An earlier news release said its brands would present 20 electrified models at the show, with the Volkswagen ID.7 and new Cayenne Porsche getting their world premieres. “With its high level of innovation, China is an important pacesetter for the entire automotive industry,” the news release said.