Chinese carmakers are abandoning or rethinking their plans to sell cars in Europe.
Last year, five Chinese automakers either announced plans to start European sales or exhibited cars at major European auto shows.
Currently, three of those – Brilliance Jinbei Automobile, Great Wall Automotive and Jiangling Motors – have delayed entry.
Geely Group still has not announced an entry date, and First Auto Works European
distributor has abandoned import plans for the Happy Emissary minicar.
Three months into 2006, no passenger vehicles built by Chinas domestic automakers are available for purchase in the EU. Only Honda is importing the Jazz small car from its joint venture in Guangzhou, southeast China.
The poor performance in an independent crash test of Jianglings Landwind SUV convinced makers and distributors of Chinese autos to reassess their plans. They are working to fully meet European Union standards for crash testing, pedestrian safety and engine emissions before starting sales.
Experienced European-based car import specialist companies are staying in close contact with up to 20 Chinese automakers. Most of these carmakers recognize they must improve their products but are eager to reach the EU market, said a senior executive at a European distributor.
The executive has visited China about a dozen times to talk with Chinese carmakers about importing their cars to Europe. He asked to remain anonymous for commercial reasons.
Its extremely easy to become the sole European distributor for any of a dozen Chinese carmakers, the executive said. Just buy the first 50,000 units. But you can only use them for garden furniture because they have no EU homologation and cant be legally sold here.
He estimated the Chinese need at least three more years to build cars that meet EU standards for crash testing, pedestrian safety and Euro 4 emissions.
Here is where Chinese automakers stand:
- In September, Geely showed five vehicles at the 2005 IAA in Frankfurt. But it still has not announced when it plans to start exporting here.
- DR Automobiles Groupe of Italy abandoned plans to distribute the E6,500 Happy Emissary minicar built by First Auto Works Hongtai Yunnan. The car failed to obtain EU homologation before new pedestrian-impact rules took effect last October and now cannot meet the standard without a major redesign.
- We are currently negotiating with FAW and other Chinese carmakers to import other vehicles and plan an announcement by the end of the year, said DR spokesman Massimo Di Tore.
- Landwind Europe, a Belgium-based importer with exclusive rights to distribute the Jianglings models here, sold about 100 Landwind SUVs in the Netherlands before the ADAC crash test. But after the publicity broke, sales stopped virtually overnight.
- Landwind Europe now says it is seeking full EU homologation rather than the individual type approval it had used up to now.
- After exhibiting the Great Wall Deer pickup and Hover SUV at the Bologna auto show last December, European importer Eurasia of Brescia, Italy, was planning to begin sales this spring. But Eurasia has delayed the launch until September.In December 2005 we obtained the N1 [light truck] homologation for both the Deer and the Hover, but we decided to delay the introduction until the Hover proved it can pass Europes most severe crash tests, Eurasia Motor Marketing Manager Marco De Bonis told Automotive News Europe.
De Bonis said his company was concerned about potential bad publicity in Europe similar to that which Landwind received after its SUV failed a crash test conducted by the ADAC, Germanys largest auto club, in September 2005.
In response, Great Wall worked to ensure the SUV could meet EU passenger vehicle standards. Last month at the China Automobile Technology Center in Tianjin, the Hover passed the Euro NCAP crash test. It is more severe than EU homologation tests because it is performed at 64kph rather than 56kph, increasing impact force 31 percent.
De Bonis says the Hover will obtain EU passenger-car (M1) homologation by year-end. As a commercial vehicle, the Deer only needs the N1 it already has.
- Euro Motors has delayed the launch of the Zhonghua upper-medium sedan built by BMWs Chinese partner, Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei. The launch originally was planned for November 2004. Euro Motors Managing Director Alfred Willner declined to say when Zhonghua sales would begin during an interview earlier this month with ANE sister publication Automobilwoche.
Willner disputed reports that Euro Motors contract with Brilliance is in danger.
We are the importer and no one else, he said.
Industry sources said that Brilliance is looking for another importer, perhaps Alfonso Saavedras Sino Motors Group in Spain.
But it is uncertain what Brilliances intentions are.
Reached by phone in China, an employee of the Brilliances export trade department said the automaker wants to export the Zhonghua.
But right now the emissions criteria doesnt meet US and European levels, the worker said. Getting those certifications is very expensive. Therefore, we dont have a plan to develop these aspects right now.
– Paolo Soares de Oliveira, Wim Oude Weernink, Alysha Webb and Jens Dralle contributed
You may e-mail Luca Ciferri at [email protected]