Bulgaria is stepping up efforts to win more auto industry investment to build on the success of attracting a new vehicle plant for China's Great Wall Motors.
The eastern European nation has lagged neighbors such as Hungary, Romania and Serbia, where automakers including Daimler, Ford and Fiat have invested in expanding vehicle production.
Ernst & Young consultant Diana Nikolaeva said Bulgaria has been successful in winning new plants from suppliers, helped by low corporate and personal taxation, a skilled work force and a stable economic climate.
"Proximity to western European markets and being part of the EU's harmonized regulatory framework are also key considerations," Nikolaeva told Automotive News Europe.
However, the country's slow law enforcement and complex administrative procedures can represent a risk for investors, Nikolaeva said.
In 2012, Great Wall opened its first European factory in Lovech, northern Bulgaria, in a joint-venture with local company Litex Motor Corp. The 50,000-unit capacity plant builds the Steed pickup from kits supplied from China. Currently, Great Wall sells its models in two markets in Western Europe: Italy and the UK.
Suppliers with local factories include Johnson Control Automotive Electronics, Grammer and Wurth Elektronik.
"We see concentration of component manufacturers in locations where there has been a long tradition in producing hydraulic parts, cable equipment, sensors," Nikolaeva said.
Bulgaria's Automotive Cluster has organized the country's first international automotive conference, in Sofia from Oct. 8-10. Speakers include Hyundai Europe Chief Operating Officer Allan Rushforth, BMW's central and southeastern Europe boss, Andrea Castronovo, and Mercedes strategic supplier and commodity manager Roland Wenger.