Reports say the company is vetting European importers, and plans to appoint an intermediary within a few months. Lin says it’s too early to say when the UK push – and the creation of a retail network – will begin, but he adds: “Our cars are produced in right-hand drive. We already export to Malaysia and Pakistan.”
Chery is likely to launch with a saloon, MPV and perhaps the next generation of its controversial QQ city car – an alleged bootleg of GM Daewoo’s Matiz. The saloon and low-roof MPV both hit the Chinese market later this year.
The four-door, codenamed A21, is a clean, Audi-influenced design, reminiscent of Honda’s Civic saloon or the latest Hyundai Sonata. Power comes from 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol engines, and a 1.9-litre diesel. The A21 measures 4.5m, longer than a Focus saloon, and Chery will follow the Korean strategy of offering a lot of car (and kit) for less money than European rivals.
The Chery B14 also clothes its seven-seat cabin in a sober suit of sheet metal, enlivened only by headlamps as funky as the pre-facelift 7-series. It shares its bigger engines with the A21, but adds a 2.4-litre petrol.
It will be fascinating to see if Chery exports the QQ, but to avoid a rumpus, Chery could hit Europe with the QQ MkII – previewed as the S16 concept at Shanghai – which has a different look, including symmetrical body panels left and right, and front and rear. It also showed a 206CC rival, the Pininfarina-designed M14 Sky, bound for Europe in a second wave.
Should established rivals take the Chinese seriously? In 1994, Korean car makers took 0.9%of the western car market. Today, it’s 4% – worth 576,000 units. The Chinese hope to make a similar impact. The English may be garbled, but their intentions are clear.