Former MG Rover dealers in France, Spain and Portugal are signing up to sell the Landwind SUV as soon as it is available.
"As soon as we have our EU type approval, we can count on about 100 dealers in France," said Peter Bijvelds, CEO of Landwind Europe.
In Spain and Portugal, 55 former MG Rover dealers want to sell the Landwind, said Alfonso Saavedra, owner of distributor Sino Motors and former managing director of MG Rover Spain.
Some dealers say they will be ready as soon as July.
"France is a particularly promising market," said Elisabeth Young, the chairwoman of Asie Auto, a French importer. "The SUV market is growing fast and French manufacturers have been a bit slow off the mark."
Rising SUV demand
French demand for SUVs has doubled since 2000 to reach 5 percent of sales last year. But PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Renault will have no SUVs in their lineups until 2007.
A former MG Rover executive, Young created Asie Auto last year. Former MG Rover dealers form the backbone of Asie Auto's distribution network.
Young says she has recruited 60 dealers and has 80 sales outlets across France. She also is negotiating with Opel dealers and small rural dealers.
Asie Auto plans to retail the Landwind starting at E15,500, about 30 percent less than comparable models from competitors, Young says.
She said she hopes to sell 600 Land-winds in 2006 and 2,500 in 2007.
Asie Auto is negotiating with other Chinese carmakers to import their cars.
Young said: "We want to be a bridgehead for Chinese manufacturers to sell cars in France."