Guangzhou Auto Rolls Out Concept Cars; Prepares to Launch Own Brand

The state-owned company, which is partnered in joint-venture plants with Honda and Toyota, says the show cars are the first step in introducing the auto maker’s own brand.

Peter Homola, Correspondent

November 29, 2007

4 Min Read
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Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group Co. Ltd. introduced three concept cars at the recent 5th annual Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition in China that will be produced under a yet-to-be-announced brand name.

Meanwhile, the Ford Verve and Mazda2 sedan were among the most important global auto makers’ premieres at the show, also known as Auto Guangzhou 2007.

State-owned Guangzhou Auto, which is partnered in vehicle-plant joint ventures with Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp., says the concepts are the first step in introducing the auto maker’s own brand.

The show cars include what the company calls a 4-door coupe, along with a battery powered sedan dubbed the AEV and a futuristic hybrid minivan named AHEV that was designed by Italy’s Torino Design SpA.

The Chinese auto maker uses the abbreviations GAC or GAIE on the concept cars, but it is not clear what the final brand name will be, although a new vehicle badge is introduced at the show.

Construction of a research and design center and vehicle plant site already is under way in Guangzhou’s Payu district. The Chinese auto maker will invest some $916 million, including $404 million on the R&D center and $512 million on production facilities in order to launch its own brand of passenger cars by 2010.

<i>From Top:</i> Guangzhou 4-door coupe, Guangzhou AHEV, BYD F1

Plans call for an annual capacity of 100,000 cars and 100,000 engines in the first stage. The second phase will see capacity expanded to 200,000 vehicles and 250,000 engines annually.

Guangzhou Auto says in a statement that it plans to build several models. The first will be a sedan, “between the intermediate and limousine level” that is expected to reach the market in 2010.

Among other Chinese auto makers at the show, BYD Auto Co. Ltd. unveiled its new BYD F1 small car for the first time. The car, which has a similar design to the Toyota Aygo minicar built in Czech Republic, will be available in Chinese dealerships next April.

As with Guangzhou Auto, BYD also introduced a new vehicle logo. The old logo was similar to BMW AG’s badge, and the German auto maker has objected to applications to register the BYD logo in other countries.

Changan Auto Co. Ltd. showed a sporty version of its Benben small car, called the Benben Sport. The Changan Benben, or Benni for export markets, which was designed by IDEA Institute SpA, first was introduced under its codename CV6 in September. The Benben Sport has a modified front facia.

FAW Tianjin Xiali Automobile Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China’s largest vehicle maker FAW Group, exhibited restyled versions of the Xiali N3, now dubbed the Xiali N3+, and its Vela cars.

Among global auto makers, the Ford Verve 4-door notchback is a concept car, but the Mazda2 sedan will be built by Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co. Ltd. at its Nanjing plant. The car will go on sale in first-half 2008 through Changan Mazda Motor Sales Co. Ltd.’s distribution network.

Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co. Ltd. unwrapped its next-generation Honda Accord at the show, with Job One set for early 2008, while the highlight of the Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. exhibit was its new Qashqai cross/utility vehicle.

Nissan used the show to announce the Qashqai will be built locally by its Dongfeng Motor Group Co. Ltd. JV, joining the U.K. and Japan as production sites. Nissan also unveiled facelifted versions of the Nissan Tiida hatchback and sedan.

Nearby, Toyota displayed its Yaris subcompact car, which is slated to begin production at the Guangzhou Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. JV plant in mid-2008. Also on Toyota’s stand was the redesigned Vios, which is manufactured at Tianjin FAW Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. in China.

Beijing Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. unveiled the Hyundai Elantra HDC, a new-generation Elantra that is expected to reach Chinese dealerships next April. The abbreviation HDC stands for HD China. The model’s design is somewhat modified from the new Korean-made Elantra, which was unveiled last year.

Additionally, Dongfeng Yueda Kia Motors Co. Ltd. showed a modified version of the Kia Cerato, with sales starting in China next month.

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