BOLOGNA, Italy – Italy has not been fertile territory for China's automotive brands.
Although upstart Italian distributors were among the quickest in Europe to debut the brands, Chinese automakers generated just 0.3 percent of Italy's total sales through October. Stated another way, 3 out of 1,000 Italian car buyers have purchased a Chinese vehicle so far this year.
On a positive note, 10-month sales of Chinese brands in the country rose 16 percent to 5,353 units, but that is not an encouraging result for carmakers such as Great Wall Motor Co., which debuted in Italy five years ago.
Great Wall's Italian importer, Eurasia Motor Company S.p.A., introduced the brand in 2006 and hoped to sell as many as 12,000 units annually after three years.
In 2009, Eurasia sold just 1,785 units. This year, it doesn't expect to do any better. The importer is selling the Hover SUV and Steed pickup, but it needs passenger cars, said Eurasia Chairman Guido Ognissanti.
“We really hope we will get the Voleex (subcompact hatchback) sometimes next year,” Ognissanti said earlier this month.
Great Wall plans to start exporting the Voleex to Italy in the first half of next year, according to a report this week in Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News China.
Later, Great Wall will launch sales of locally assembled Voleex cars in Bulgaria, said Roger Gao, manager of the company's international branding department.
Great Wall's assembly plant in Lovech, Bulgaria, is slated to begin production in the first half of 2011. Initially, the Lovech plant will produce only for the Bulgarian market.
Eurasia boss Ognissanti said that it is hard for an importer to make plans with a carmaker which, distracted by a buoyant domestic market, frequently revises its export plans. Pricing also is an open issue, he says.
“Great Wall asks us our potential sales volume before setting the price, but could we forecast a realistic volume if we were not told the exact price?” Ognissanti said.