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SAIC Motor boosts wholly owned brands

The maker of Roewe and MG also nurturing range of new energy cars

SAIC Motor Co Ltd sold more than 82,000 cars of its Roewe and MG brands between January and November of 2009, up 160 percent over the same period of the previous year. Full-year sales are expected to hit 90,000 units, the company said.

The top Chinese automotive group, also partner of Germany’s Volkswagen and US carmaker General Motor, SAIC plans to double the sales of its two wholly owned brands to 180,000 in 2010.

It will soon introduce several new models of its own brands this year, including the MG6 compact, Roewe A-class model and the Roewe SUV.

The company is also developing new-energy vehicles that carry its own badges. It will commercially produce the Roewe 750 petrol-electric hybrid in 2010, which uses 20 percent less gasoline.

In May the company will unveil its first plug-in hybrid electric car, the Roewe 550, which can save more than 50 percent on fuel consumption. The model will be put into mass production by 2012.

Also in 2012, the company will launch its own brand of purely electric-powered cars that have zero emission.

Last month, the company announced it will set up a joint venture with US-based A123 Systems Inc, one of the world’s leading lithium-ion battery suppliers, to co-develop battery systems for its green vehicles.

According to Chen Hong, president of SAIC Motor Co Ltd, developing electric cars is an inexorable trend and auto manufacturers should prepare for the fundamental change.

SAIC has already successfully developed several kinds of new energy vehicles, including a dimethyl ether coach, hybrid coach, electric coach, ultra capacitor coach, hybrid sedan and plug-in fuel battery sedan.

The company plans to supply nearly 1,000 alternative energy vehicles to serve the World Expo this year, including purely electric-powered, as well as ultra capacitor coaches, fuel battery and hybrid vehicles. It displayed six new energy models for the Shanghai World Expo at the 2009 China International Industry Fair in November last year.

Research and development work on new energy vehicles in China started about a decade ago, but large-scale commercialization of clean cars remained out of reach, mainly due to high prices and recharging problems.

Domestic carmakers such as BYD and Chery are also working on research and development of electric cars.

SAIC began to produce its own-brand cars Phoenix – the name was later changed to Shanghai – in the 1950s but stopped production in the early 1990s. For the following decade, the automaker had no homegrown brands.

In October 2006, the company unveiled its first Roewe brand car, developed on the basis of Rover 75 technology it acquired from the failed British carmaker MG Rover. Its MG brand cars are based on the same technology.

Unlike many domestic automakers that mainly made low-end cars priced below 100,000 yuan, SAIC positioned its Roewe and MG models as medium- and high-end products from the very beginning.

Since May 2009, the Roewe 550 model enjoyed stable monthly sales of more than 6,000 units, which is seen by the company as a success in building a domestic medium- and high-end brand to compete with counterparts made by the joint ventures.

Currently SAIC has more than 240 dealers for its own brands in China’s first and second tier cities. The company said it will strengthen the sales network in lower-tier cities in the future.

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