FIRST there was the Japanese invasion and more recently the Koreans have made big inroads into the British car market. Now it’s China’s turn to grab a slice of the action.
The Chinese carmaker Geely has announced that it is to launch in the UK, with the first cars arriving here in less than a year’s time.
Its first model to hit British showrooms will be the snappily named Emgrand EC7, a mid-size family saloon and hatchback. Priced from around £10,000, it looks certain to find plenty of customers.
Geely is being imported by MBH, the firm behind the London Taxi, which is also built in China by Geely. This link is how the deal has come to fruition: Geely UK will be based in the same Coventry headquarters as the London Taxi Company.
MBH and Geely are now preparing a sales and marketing infrastructure for the new Chinese cars. A dealer network is also being recruited; around 30-40 dealers is the initial aim, with many former Rover dealers being targeted.
A Geely UK spokesman said the Emgrand will come with 1.5 or 1.8-litre petrol engines, and the aim is to introduce at least one new model range annually for the next four or five years.
The Chinese will be following the other Oriental manufacturers’ successful strategy – gaining themselves a solid foothold by marketing easy-to-own value-for-money vehicles. Cars will carry a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Geely already owns Volvo and has invested massively in the Swedish firm, although the company insists the new business will remain completely separate. The link should prove reassuring for potential customers, though.
On grounds of logic, you’d expect Geely to attract plenty of interest, especially in these financially tough times, but cheap Chinese imports have been blamed for declines in many European markets so some initial customer resistance is likely.
Pictures of the Emgrand reveal an inoffensive if unexciting design, and concerns about Chinese safety standards will have been partly allayed by the model’s four-star rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests.
It’ll probably take years to create that nebulous quality known as ‘street cred’ but there will be more than enough people who don’t worry about such things to ensure that it will become a familiar sight on British roads before too long – and, thereafter, the roads of continental Europe.