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Should the competition be worried?.....the Brilliance:
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

World automakers assess what threat Chinese cars pose

By Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Visitors to the Frankfurt car show seemed more impressed by the brightly painted Beijing opera performers and entertainers dressed up as monkeys than by the smattering of Chinese vehicles on display.

Crowded in a hall reserved for second-tier nameplates, Brilliance Auto, BMW's venture partner in China, exhibited sedans conceived with the help of European designers, the private Geely Group showed off a five-model lineup, and Jiangling Motors exhibited its Landwind sport utility vehicle.

Many viewers chuckled, but the prospect of Chinese imports flooding the market loomed large at Europe's biggest car show, as it does in Detroit. At this stage, however, the Chinese threat is reflected mainly in the heightened urgency European executives feel to slash costs.

"These guys are aggressive. After the Japanese and Koreans, this is the third wave of Asian manufacturers that'll sweep around the world," said Wolfgang Bernhard, former chief operating officer at the Chrysler Group and now head of Volkswagen AG's VW division.

"They're going to go global the way the Korean automakers went global. There's no way to stop them. We've got to be prepared," said Bernhard, who is drafting a restructuring plan for the large VW division.

He expects Chinese manufacturers will be serious competitors in five to 10 years.

Currently, they don't look like much of a threat -- but neither did the Korean brands at their outset, and they're now among the fastest-growing nameplates in several European countries.

At the Landwind stand, a receptionist handed out brochures listing German dealers who have agreed to sell the Chinese SUV. But a salesman at the Herlmetz dealership in Bitterfeld, one of the firms listed, said he didn't have any Landwinds and didn't know when they would arrive. He didn't have a price list or specifications yet.

But the interest is out there. "I had four calls today alone," said Fabian Hirl, who also sells Kia, Opel and Alfa Romeo models.

China's auto industry will undoubtedly boost global competition by several notches, says Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both alliance partners Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. But the most formidable competitors may not be the Chinese companies now rushing to be the first to export vehicles.

"What they can do, we can do, because we are now in China," Ghosn said, referring to the ventures formed by Chinese companies and global automakers. The ventures have the dual advantage of low Chinese wages and the technological and production know-how of the world's best auto companies. Honda Motor Co. has already begun exporting a Chinese-built compact, the Jazz, to Europe.

"Global automakers established in China are going to be more efficient and they're going to be competing against each other in other markets," Ghosn said. If China's carmakers can copy technology fast enough and grab market share by making appealing and reliable vehicles, "well," said Ghosn, "then welcome to the club."

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Is that a Rover? It looks like a Rover. I think its a Rover. Edited by Satty

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Well ???????? Let me see if I can come up with something kinda ...... similar Katrina ? How about a song ? By perhaps the Rolling Stones ! Ah never mind, bring it on, were not ready but it wont be a sucker punch, we'll just bow defeated.

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Everything I've ever held in my hand marked "China" has been pure, unmitigated crap... why in the world would I gamble on something as complex as a car 'Made in China'?? Show me 50 years of excellent-quality product and they may have a fighting chance.

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I agree, I am increasingly worried about the integrity of Chinese cars right down to the nuts and bolts. Are they using good quality metals for instance? I know I won't be buying one.

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