Chinese automakers hope to revive their European sales ambitions by targeting the region’s booming SUV market. China-owned brands MG Motor and Borgward plan to launch SUVs in Europe soon in a bid to attract buyers who have in the past shunned Chinese cars because of quality issues. Great Wall, China’s biggest SUV maker, has reorganized production at its factory in Bulgaria to focus on SUV production.
Sales by Chinese brands in Europe have remained stubbornly low since Geely Automobile used the 2005 Frankfurt auto show to announce its plans to make a big impact in Europe. MG Motor, owned by China’s SAIC, sold just 2,328 MG-branded cars in the UK, its only European market, last year, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics. Next year, MG Motor will launch the GS compact SUV in the UK, where it is based, expanding its lineup to three vehicles alongside the MG6 compact sedan and MG3 subcompact hatchback.
The MG GS may prompt the brand to sell in mainland Europe, a plan it postponed in 2013. Matthew Cheyne, MG Motor’s sales and marketing chief, said: “A three car lineup is a much more attractive package.” Cheyne named Portugal and Cyprus as two countries MG intends to target in 2017 and 2018. Paul Holmes, MG Motor’s regional operations director, said the SUV will be an aspirational model that will make customers think differently about the brand. MG Motor, based in Longbridge, central England, is all that remains of the MG Rover Group, which was the UK’s biggest volume automaker until its collapse in 2005.
Great Wall is counting on the H6 SUV to improve its European sales. The automaker has started building the H6 alongside the Steed pickup, replacing the C10 subcompact hatchback, at the factory it opened in Bulgaria in 2012. “We are focusing on developing and producing 4x4 vehicles,” a Great Wall spokesperson said. Great Wall sold 518 vehicles in Italy and 800 in Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Romania in 2014. The company is considering expanding into the Czech Republic, Poland and Greece.