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–By Mac Gordon, CBU/CAR Detroit Correspondent
Two photos available
Santiago – The China auto industry is spreading its overseas wings into Latin America with displays by 14 Chinese automakers in the new Movicenter AutoMall in Santiago, Chile.
Following the precedent set by FAW Car Co. in Mexico, where the automaker is building an assembly plant and exporting its F-series small cars, the Chinese contingent already is accounting for more than 5 percent of Chile’s annual sales this year.
China’s top sellers in Chile, whose annual sales this year will reach the 270,000 mark, are the Chery QQ, a top-selling subcompact in China, and the Great Wall Hover SUV.
Giving impetus to China vehicle growth in a South American country of 16.3 million persons, are Chile’s free-trade agreements with leading auto exporting countries, including China, the U.S., Japan, France, South Korea and Germany.
Nearly 3,000 Chinese vehicles were sold in Chile last year and that number could quadruple this year, says J.D. Power & Associates’ manager of Latin American forecasting, Michel Pardal.
“The Chilean public has been buying Chinese products without reluctance,” says Ivan Silva Carmona, executive vice president of Chile’s National Automotive Association. “Their success was faster than we projected.”
Among Chinese exhibitors at the Movicenter were large and small vehicle producers, ranging from Chery and Geely to Yuejin and Xinkai.
India’s leading domestic automakers Tata and Mahindra have made initial moves to display at the Movicenter, which is located in Chile’s capital city.
But with India lacking a free-trade pact with Chile, Mahindra has made little progress in marketing its diesel crew-cab pickup, priced at $18,000, or Mitsubishi Montero-like SUV in the South American country
Tata’s Indigo compact car is set for export to Chile this year – a model familiar to Chileans as a look-alike of the Fiat 600.
The Movicenter clusters vehicles by countries of origin. All GM cars are branded Chevrolet – from the Korea-built Aveo subcompact to the fullsize Chevy Silverado. The Chinese vehicles comprise the largest national display.
“The advancement of the Chinese in Chile is absolutely impressive,” says Julie Beamer, managing director of GM Chile & Peru. “We are taking the threat very seriously.”
So seriously that Gustavo Colossi, sales and marketing director of GM Chile, took reporters on a Movicenter tour at which he pointed to trim “gaps” on a $16,000 pickup made by China vehicle maker Xinkai.
Questions arising from the Santiago mall displays are how soon will Chinese vehicles, already on sale in Mexico under the FAW label at Grupo Salinas superstores, reach U.S. shores and whether the Movicenter model will be initiated in the U.S. as a selling venue.