Homegrown models showcased in car show

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2008, 12:00am

Domestic firms to launch green, hi-tech brands

Mainland carmakers are expected to move from the sidelines to centre stage at the Beijing Car Show next week, rolling out more than two dozen of their own brands of sports cars, green cars, family sedans and sports utility vehicles.

The annual exhibition, held alternately in Beijing and Shanghai, is shifting its focus this year from new models by foreign carmakers to homegrown brands.

'This is the reason I'm going to this year's car show,' said Yale Zhang, the director of emerging markets at United States consulting firm csm Worldwide. 'I want to see exactly what the cars look like.

'Geely [Holding Group], especially, has made great improvements in its car models in terms of appearance, though the functions and technology remain to be seen.'

Local carmakers, such as Geely, Chery Automobile and SAIC Motor Corp, are going to unveil their new environment-friendly, hi-tech models, which include low-emission diesel and hybrid electric cars.

Hong Kong-listed Geely will show 10 new models in the show, with one concept 2-door sports car named Geely GT.

Geely, which was criticised in the Detroit Car Show in 2006 for its plain-looking cars, wants to turn around its brand reputation by introducing hi-tech models.

'We needed another year to develop hi-tech, economy cars,' said Geely chairman Li Shufu, adding that he expected the new models to boost sales and profits.

Anhui-based Chery will bring six new vehicle categories to the show, including the upgraded family sedan, A3, a new sports utility vehicle called the Higgo, and a small economy car, the Faira.

SAIC, the country's largest carmaker, will showcase its Roewe 550, a medium-priced subcompact car. It launched the Roewe 750 early last year, employing techniques and designs from Rover 75 and Rover 25 acquired by the company in 2004.

'Some Roewe 550 photos were leaked by the mainland media. I'm so impressed by the design and appearance of the car,' said vehicle analyst Matthew Kong of Fitch Ratings in Beijing.

'It will be worth it to see how Chinese-made cars have changed this year at the show,' Mr Kong said.

Dongfeng Motor, the third-largest carmaker on the mainland, will spend 11 billion yuan (HK$12.28 billion) this year to develop energy-saving cars.

While that is under way, the state-owned parent of Hong Kong-listed Dongfeng will also be developing its own brand of cars, according to company secretary Hu Xindong.

Meanwhile, Guangzhou Automotive Industry Corp hopes to complete its listing as soon as possible with the funds to be used for building energy-saving cars under its own brand.

Mainland carmakers are in a race to secure market position in a highly competitive market.

'The only ones that can survive in the market are those that can make their own brand of high-quality cars,' Mr Kong said. 'If the local carmakers can't maintain their position in the market, eventually they'll be merged with stronger players.'