4 June 2004

A new flurry of ultra-cheap Chinese-nameplate cars should be heading to Britain in the next few years. Britain’s Subaru and Daihatsu importer, the IM Group, is ‘optimistic’ of pulling off a deal with a Chinese car maker for sales around 2007 or 2008, when a new wave of modern models developed with European expertise are launched.

In the frame are cars from companies such as Chery, Geely and Haifei, domestic Chinese car companies that sell their own-design vehicles and are not in joint ventures with major car makers.

‘The company has been looking for opportunities in China for some time, but now we’re optimistic that we are close to signing deals,’ said Peter Kinnaird, IM’s overseas operations director.

Chery’s newest model is the QQ, a Daewoo Matiz lookalike, while Geely’s best-seller is the Haoqing, a five-door based on the Daihatsu Charade. Haifei is best known for its Pininfarina-designed Lobo supermini.

However, none of these current cars are likely to make sales in the UK. Instead, Chinese car makers will look to export their next-generation models, engineered to EU crash and emissions standards.Trade barriers will also have to come down. Although China is a member of the World Trade Organisation, it has a complicated quota procedure for car imports and applies tariffs of up to 50 per cent. The EU is sure to demand an easing of these rules in return for access to the European market.

Honda will be the first car maker with a Chinese-built car on sale in the UK, when exported Jazz models arrive at UK dealers later this year.

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