IM Group has been talking to a number of Chinese manufacturers, thought to include Changfeng Motors and Great Wall, for some time.
Changfeng has already announced plans to enter Europe by setting up a semi-knock-down production facility to become a “global player”.
Li Jianxian, Changfeng Motors chairman, said the company needed to step out of its comfort zone into global competition. He confirmed that Changfeng was looking at launching in Europe as well as North America, perhaps as early as late 2009.
Changfeng has worked with Mitsubishi since 2002 on a version of the Pajero/Shogun for the Chinese market, but is seeking European manufacturers to assemble its cars in Europe.
Professor Garel Rhys, head of Cardiff University’s automotive business school, believes it will be a while before Chinese carmakers make their presence felt.
Rhys expects the Chinese manufacturers to take a concessionary approach. He also believes there will be plenty of UK dealers willing to take them on.
“Establishing a network of dealers won’t be a problem. It would make sense for used car networks to add a Chinese manufacturer’s new car franchise to their site,” he said. “Dealers could offer a new Chinese model for a similar price to a two-year-old used model.”
Changfeng unveiled its new SUV, called the Liebao CS7, and a compact MPV called Kylin at Detroit Motor Show. It intends to launch two new models every year.