Located in northern Ningbo of east China's Zhejiang Province and the southern bank of Hangzhou Bay, a coastal area has witnessed spectacular growth in the automotive industry in recent years.
Ningbo Hangzhou Bay New Zone, deemed as a strategic hub for various cutting-edge manufacturing sectors, saw an output of automotive firms based there exceeding 100 billion yuan (about 14.44 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, up 13 percent year on year, according to the area's administrative committee.
Over several years of development, the automotive industry has become a major driving force for the area's economic growth and intelligent transformation, with an industrial cluster composed of five assembly lines and over 100 auto parts manufacturers.
While contributing to the robust growth, automotive firms are stepping up efforts to expand their presence in the new zone. The most recent case in point is the announcement by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and German carmaker Mercedes-Benz of creating a joint venture for the Smart brand in the area.
Meanwhile, Geely Auto Group, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, has recently decided to relocate its headquarters to the area.
Yang Xueliang, vice president of Geely Auto Group, attributed such moves to the area's commitment to accommodating advanced manufacturing enterprises, particularly auto parts companies with worldwide competitiveness.
"The new zone has released a development plan on the automotive industry, which aims at encouraging the settlement of more technological innovation-oriented auto parts firms and lays a solid foundation for our development," Yang said.
According to the plan, the new zone has vowed to assemble more than 40 of the world's top 100 auto parts firms and increase the output of the automotive industry to 400 billion yuan and vehicle production to 2 million units by 2025.
Holding high hopes for the new zone's pursuit of technological innovation and intelligent manufacturing, SAIC Volkswagen has built a factory there with a production network based on Industry 4.0, while Geely has established an R&D center as an essential part of its global R&D network.
Also, the new zone keeps optimizing its business environment to provide automotive firms with hospitality and opportunities.
"Authorities of both the Ningbo municipal government and Hangzhou Bay New Zone have established a good environment for investment with high administrative efficiency and excellent services," Yang said, adding such an environment is a crucial reason for Geely's dedication to expanding its business in the area.
Cai Shijie, vice deputy of the administrative committee of the new zone, told Xinhua that the area had established a mechanism and command center to regulate the services for automotive companies. The command center has been in operation for 10 years.
"We rely on offering a hospitable environment and abiding by investment agreements to attract more automotive enterprises," Cai said.
Considering automotive firms' growing appetite for talents while striving for technological upgrading and intelligent transformation, Cai said more efforts would be made in the future to develop the new zone into a global talent hub for auto manufacturing.
Looking ahead, Yang envisioned the new zone to be a world-leading industrial center for automotive development, manufacturing and marketing like Detroit in the U.S. and Germany's Stuttgart.
"This might take some time, but the odds are very high in light of the current development pace and all the efforts that are being made," Yang added.