Taking a peek inside China's Changan

Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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China's Changan Automobile is moving fast but cautiously, according to a top executive with the automaker whose partners include Ford, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Mazda.

Martin Joyce, who is group chief engineer at Changan's UK r&d center, said it wasn't long ago that the automaker was 10 years behind its more established rivals, but now it is about two years behind, especially when it comes to powertrains.

Joyce, a 30-year auto industry veteran, said Changan's engines are Euro 5 compliant. His current challenge is to make sure Changan's powertrains can meet euro 6 emission standards. The automaker, which also has a design center in Italy, is working with top Tier 1 suppliers such as Robert Bosch for stop-start technology, BorgWarner for turbochargers and Aisin for transmissions.

In addition to its joint ventures with U.S., French and Japanese automakers, Changan's own-brand sells sedans and crossovers domestically. The CS75 SUV debuted at the Frankfurt auto show on Tuesday.

Joyce is amazed at the speed that Changan is moving and improving. Looking over Changan's Frankfurt stand he said that most of the cars on display were not even launched two years ago.

The executive also is impressed by the automaker's restraint. During the show there was no bold talk about a big push into Europe -- other Chinese have tried this route and failed.

By 2020, Changan wants to sell 400,000 cars a year outside of China, but its top six target markets are Ukraine, Algeria, Iraq, Chile, Peru and Columbia.

He said that the average age of the people at Changan's r&d center in Nottingham, central England, is 45 as most of the people there have about 25 years of experience. The emphasis is quality more than volume, Joyce said.

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