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Chery and WEY go to Frankfurt with eyes on the European market

Here come the Chinese, again.

Chery Automobile Co., Ltd. and WEY, the luxury brand from Great Wall Motor Co., Ltd., will be making their first appearance ever at a major European auto show this month at the IAA Cars 2017, or the biennial Frankfurt Motor Show.

This will be the third time in the last 12 years that a major Chinese automaker will be exhibiting at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In 2005, Geely became the first Chinese automaker to ever exhibit at the show, five years before it bought Volvo Cars. Brilliance China and Land Wind, a unit of Jiangling Motors Corp., also showed up that year with the Zhonghua sedan and Land Wind SUV, indirectly through their European dealers. In 2013, Chang’an had its maiden appearance in Frankfurt with the global debut of the CS75 SUV which later turned out to be one of the top selling SUV models in the Chinese market.

Chery’s press conference will be held from 10:50 to 11:05 on the morning of September 12 at the Frankfurt Messe, less than half an hour after WEY finishes its 15-minute press conference at 10:25. Both brands will be exhibiting in Hall 8.0, next to the stands of big name brands such as Toyota, Lexus, Subaru, Hyundai, Opel, Renault, Dacia and Citroën.

Chery is the country’s 10th largest automaker in terms of sales volume (7th in Chinese brand passenger vehicle sales), while Great Wall ranks 8th in overall vehicle sales but 4th in Chinese brand PV sales. Chery is the country’s leading passenger vehicle exporter, having led that category for 14 consecutive years, while Great Wall is the country’s perennial leader in SUV production and sales, having led the segment for also 14 consecutive years with its Haval dedicated SUV brand. Chery has two vehicle joint ventures: Chery-Jaguar Land Rover and Qoros, while Great Wall remains “single” but has been in the headlines recently with its intention to acquire Jeep from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Will showing up in Frankfurt am Main bring fortunes to Chery and WEY just like it did for Geely and Chang’an?


Chery is serious about entering Europe with compact SUV reveal

Unlike Geely’s appearance in Frankfurt in 2005, which was primarily to learn and understand the international markets, and Chang’an’s in 2013, which was to use a global stage to unveil a new model for its home market, Chery is showing up with serious intentions of entering the European market.

It plans to reveal a compact SUV codenamed M31T based on its M3X compact/mid-size sedan/SUV platform dedicated to international markets. The global premiere heralds Chery’s so-called “Generation 3.0” era product matrix and details of its “3.0” era strategy are expected to be announced at the show. It also plans to communicate with local dealers about new measures and efforts to expand into developed European markets.

The M31T will have 1.6TGDI or 1.5TCI hybrid powertrain options meeting Euro-VI emissions standards, and is expected to lead a range of new models into the European markets that will be offered with electrified powertrain options. The model has been designed for “young, urban, progressive-minded customers, and will meet the needs and expectations of European private and fleet buyers in terms of design, quality, dynamics and crash worthiness,” according to a Chery statement. It also plans to establish a European R&D Center, an effort that is being spearheaded by James Hope, Chery’s former design director.

The M3X is one of the four major platforms Chery has, with the other three being the M1X sub-compact/compact sedan platform, the T1X compact SUV platform and the A3X sub-compact SUV platform. The M1X and T1X serve as core platforms of Chery’s “2.0” era and have already led to models such as the Tiggo 7 and 5 SUVs, as well as the Arrizo 5, 5 Sport and 7. The M3X and A3X platforms are expected to underpin higher-end cars, MPVs and SUVs headed by the M31T. The NEV dedicated EV platform, which already has the eQ series small EVs, will complement these four platforms.

So far, Chery already has 17 overseas plants with total annual output capacity of 210,000 units. CEO Dr. Chen Anning has said that Chery plans to enter the European market within five years with North America taking a bit more time to enter.

In the first half of 2017, Chery sales totaled 315,172 units, up 11.2 percent. That volume included export of 54,317 units, up 61.5 percent, while new energy vehicle sales rose 86.5 percent to 9,300 units. The company has set a sales target of 900,000 units for 2017.


WEY to Europe?

WEY, on the other hand, is making its first ever appearance at a major international auto show less than a year after the brand was officially launched at Auto Guangzhou 2016 last November as a “pioneer” in Chinese luxury SUVs. It is also the first pure-bred Chinese “luxury” brand to exhibit at a major international auto show.

While parent company Great Wall Motor leads China in sales of SUVs and pickups, it is too early to say whether WEY, named after company founder and chairman Wei Jianjun and dedicated also to SUVs like its sister brand Haval, will be successful at breaking the glass ceiling of Chinese brands trying to go upscale. So far in the first two full months (June and July) on the market, WEY sold close to 10,000 units of the VV7 SUVs priced in the ¥150,000-¥200,000 range. It recently added the smaller VV5 SUV to the model lineup.

Great Wall has not officially announced any plans on what it will be showing in Frankfurt but expect it to unveil an all-new SUV model or concept that will add to its existing model lineup. According to local media reports that model will be the P8 plug-in hybrid based on the VV7 but with a different exterior design, powered by Great Wall’s GW4C20A 2.0T turbocharged engine with a maximum power of 250 kW, coupled with a 6-speed DCT and two electric motors. Fuel consumption is rated at only 2.3L-2.4L per 100 km.

Chairman Wei has said that he wants WEY to become the brand of choice for Chinese consumers shopping for SUVs in the ¥150,000-¥200,000 price range. The brand plans to establish 200 dealers by yearend and has an ambitious target to sell 100,000 units in 2017.

Great Wall sold 460,743 vehicles in the first half of 2017, up 2.33 percent with a significant majority of the volume coming from the Haval SUV brand (394,540 units, up 4.18 percent). Export volume reached 18,155 units, up 148.73 percent. It launched its first ever EV model – the C30 EV – in May.

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