LONDON: Chinese automaker Chery Automobile will launch SUV models from three car brands in Europe over the next two years and could decide on an assembly plant in Europe as soon as 2024, its top regional executive said on Monday.
Chery, China's No. 8 automaker by sales volume in 2022, joins a growing number of Chinese automakers - from market-leader BYD to smaller rivals Xpeng and Nio - with European expansion plans as competition intensifies at home and domestic growth eases.
Chery Europe's managing director Jochen Tueting said the automaker was gearing up to launch its Omoda and Jaecoo brands in all major European markets including Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, and France.
By the end of 2025, the company will launch three SUV models for each brand, with a mixture of fully-electric, fossil-fuel and hybrid cars to serve different parts of Europe. Electric vehicle sales are higher, for instance, in western European countries than in southern markets, Tueting said.
"We're heavily focusing with these two brands on the growing SUV segment... in order to ensure that we can develop significant sales relatively fast," he said.
The automaker's all-electric Exlantix - the third brand on its launch list - will debut with only fully-electric models by early 2025, Tueting said.
Earlier this year, China's Huawei Technologies announced a partnership with Chery and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group to develop EVs.
While that partnership features the same EV platform as the Exlantix brand, the Huawei project is focused on the Chinese market, Tueting said.
Later this year, Chery will launch sales of the combustion-engine version of its Omada 5 compact crossover - with a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating - in Spain, and will sell both a fossil-fuel and fully-electric version in Germany from April.
The Omada 5 will sell for around 30,000 euros (RM148,000), "which we think is going to be very price competitive," Tueting said.
The European Commission has launched an investigation into whether to impose punitive tariffs to protect EU automakers against cheaper Chinese EV imports it says are benefiting from state subsidies.
But Tueting said Chery is not concerned about the investigation because if its brands perform as expected, it could decide on an assembly plant in Europe as soon as 2024.
"Wherever we get confidence from the market that we can sell proper volumes, that's for us the indication we should have local production as well," he said.
Still, Chinese EV brands also face challenges in Europe in the way of low brand recognition and high import costs.
Chery, meanwhile is weighing whether to buy an existing assembly plant from a legacy manufacturer, or to build its own one, Tueting said.
The company has 10 assembly plants outside China.
This year, Chery expects to double the 450,000 cars it exported in 2022, bringing total unit sales for 2023 close to 2 million cars, Tueting said.