Chinese automakers look to luxury

12 May 2009

BEIJING: Two of China's biggest domestic automakers, Geely and Chery, are both launching luxury brands in an effort to increase their appeal among the new breed of affluent consumers in the country.

It has been argued that the luxury market is subject to a unique set of conditions in China, but sales of premium goods are still expected to enjoy an upturn there this year, compared with a global contraction, according to spending forecasts from Bain & Co.

Geely, which initially focused on making affordable cars, launched the first model in its new high-end range at the Sanghai auto show last month.

The company's new brand will be called Englon, combining the words "England" and "London", which are said to encourage perceptions of "nobility".

Moreover, the first model in its luxury portfolio, the Geely Excellence – which is still in development, and is thought by some observers to resemble cars produced by Rolls-Royce – is expected to cost over $100,000 (€73,559; £66,103), and will be made to order.

Frank Zhao, Geely's chief technology officer, stated that the move demonstrated the company's "great ambition to make upscale vehicles," and also argued that producing more high-end vehicles was key to the firm's long-term "sustainable development." 

Chery has also launched a new brand, called Riich, which will feature a range of vehicles priced between $30,000 and $44,000, compared with the $4,500 it currently charges for its QQ model.

Jin Yibo, the auto manufacturer's assistant general manager, said that while Chery "used to focus only on the mass market," developing a range of "medium to high-end brands will turn out higher value added for the company" in the long-term.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff