BOLOGNA, Italy -- Lifan and Changhe, two small, privately owned Chinese carmakers, will rely on Italys Martin Motors for their first Europewide car launches.
Martin Motors has the rights to sell Lifan and Changhe models in western, central and eastern Europe. The vehicles will be rebadged with the Martin Motors logo, said Martin Motors spokeswoman Viviana Martinelli.
The privately owned distributor, based near Milan, plans to sell a combined 10,000 Lifan and Changhe units in Europe this year.
They will go on sale in Romania this month, and in Italy in spring, provided the vehicles pass homologation tests.
Sales of the Changhe and Lifan vehicles are planned in other western European markets for the second half of next year, beginning with Germany, Austria and France, Martinelli said.
Unveiled at the auto show here in December, the Lifan-built MM 520i is a five-door, 4040mm-long hatchback with a starting price of 11,820. The four-door 520 sedan is 4370mm-long and will start at 12,840.
Both vehicles are powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline engine produced in Brazil by Tritec Motors, an engine company sold last summer by Chrysler to Fiat Powertrain Technologies.
Chongqing Lifan Industry Group is Chinas largest privately owned motorcycle manufacturer. Lifan launched its first car in April 2005.
Also at the Bologna show, Martin Motors unveiled the Ideal small car, built by Jiangxi Changhe Automobile.
Changhe is based in Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province.
The Ideal is a 3600mm-long five-door hatchback. In Italy, pricing starts at 8,200 for the 1.0-liter gasoline version. Changhe has some strong allies. The Ideal was designed by Italys Stile Bertone, and the small automakers partner in China is Suzuki Motor.
For the Lifan and Changhe models to comply with Euro 4 emissions rules, Martin Motors is fitting all the vehicles with a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) system.
In Italy, LPG vehicles receive a 1,500 state incentive, which already has been included in the announced list prices.
Carmen Covrig, general manager of the Romanian importer CEMI Group, said the Romanian homologation of the car is almost complete. CEMI Group last year sold about 1,200 units of the Chinese-built Shuanghuan CEO large SUV in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Martin Motors also is the distributor for Shuanghuan Automobile, based in Shijiazhuang. Martin Motors has the rights to sell Shuanghuan vehicles in all of western Europe except for France and Netherlands. It also has rights for sales in central Europe.
The distributor has a network of 87 independent dealers that sell its vehicles in Italy.