Sunday, 4 December 2011
Beware Greeks - or Chinese
If the Greeks had been smart they would have built their Trojan Horse inside Troy. No need to get the Trojans to wheel it in. They could have taken over a workshop and the siege would have been over in minutes. The Chinese are cleverer. They are getting cars into Europe using old factories and Trojan soldiers. An Italian car dealer, Massimo di Risio, plans to make cars from China's Chery Automobile at a Sicilian factory Fiat abandoned. In Britain China's SAIC Motor Corporation is building MGs at Longbridge in the old Austin plant bought from MG Rover. The Chinese are desperately negotiating a takeover of Saab, with a splendid factory in Sweden, which is being resisted by its former proprietor General Motors. In Bulgaria, according to Automotive News Europe, Great Wall Motor will have three locally made models ready next year. In China, Chery Quantum, a joint venture of Chery and Israel Corporation, is going to ship compact cars and a Sports Utility to Europe under a new brand called Qoros.
This aims at 300,000 a year, about three times what Saab was making. The Chinese have found it difficult to meet Western standards for quality, safety and fuel economy, so Chery Quantum has got respected Magna Steyr in Austria to develop prototypes. AVL, also Austrian, is creating engines.
The Chery Quantum Trojan Horse will be manned by Volker Steinwascher, former head of Volkswagen North America. He has already recruited German executives, notably a former designer of BMW Minis, Gert Hildebrand. Steinwascher says Chery Quantum won't match Western driving dynamics and technology, but will use more basic technology to make cars between €11,000 and €15,000. The company will be exporting by 2013, by which time Great Wall in Bulgaria will have come on stream and di Risio's factory in Sicily could be sending rebadged Chery models outside Italy.
In the 1980s the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (JAMA) came to a gentleman’s agreement with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which limited Japanese imports to roughly one car in ten sold in Britain. The Japanese set up joint deals, for example between Honda and British Leyland, but in due course it was easier to establish manufacturing. Britain and Europe is now replete with Japanese car factories. One of China’s fastest growing manufacturers, Geely, will be selling in Britain by the end of the year. It will operate from an office shared with The London Taxi Company through its distribution arrangement with Manganese Bronze Holdings plc (MBH). Geely already owns Volvo, but with MBH it will sell £10,000 Emgrand EC7s through a dealer network Geely Auto UK. MGH and Geely are partners, building London black cabs in Coventry. The Chinese have been quick to notice that there are no longer any frontiers. Troy should, once again, brace itself.
(Below) Saab Phoenix waits to rise from the ashes.