In the first 3 parts of this series we observed that Chinese carmakers have managed their expansion into Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe by securing less developed markets and using them as anchor points for a more widespread presence in these regions. In this context it’s interesting to note that in their own ‘backyard’, Asia, the same strategy has not been met with the same success, with only a handful of small markets in the region ‘cracked’ so far. However as you can expect, Chinese manufacturers are now busy working on correcting that situation, so they can finally surf on what is currently one of the most dynamic car markets in the world.
In Myanmar, as the market becomes normalised, all 1,000 Chery QQ imported by the Ministry of Industry sold out within a week in December 2012 in spite of seeing their original price more than double once various duties, taxes and licensing fees were added. The QQ is now a common sight in the main city in the country, Yangoon, mainly as taxis.
Laos is the only other South-East Asian market where Chinese carmakers seem to be enjoying very healthy sales, with the Chery M1, QQ & Tiggo, JAC Tongyue and BYD F0 all noticed in the streets of Luang Prabang my dear Mum and Dad during their last trip there in January 2011.
Neighbour North Korea is potentially the market in the world where the Chinese dominate the most, thanks to government links between the two countries. I estimate this based on the observation of rare videos of the streets of the capital Pyongyang. Local manufacturer Pyeonghwa assembles under license the Samchunri (aka Jinbei Haise) which should be the best-seller in the country, Brilliance BS4, FSV and Huanghai Shuguan, romantically renamed Ppoggugi 4WD. More recently, a batch of 200 Hawtai Lusheng E70 taxis were imported from China.
A little more to the West in Sri Lanka, Geely has associated with local brand Micro Cars to assemble and sell the Panda and MK (renamed MX7) to relative success. Micro Cars also assembles and sells Great Wall and Jinbei vehicles and ranked #2 in the country in February 2013. In India, Chevrolet launched the Enjoy in 2013 which is in fact a rebadged Wuling Hongguang and Chery assembles and sells the QQ in Pakistan, however no sales figures are available so far.
Another part of the world completely bypassed by most car manufacturers except the Chinese is all the Central Asian former Soviet nations. Even though official data is still rare for these countries, anecdotal evidence shows they are present there en masse. For example, did you know that judging by YouTube videos the Changhe Freedom must have been the best-selling car in Tajikistan for a couple of years before such minivans were abruptly banned over safety concerns in 2010? Lifan has been assembling cars in Azerbaijan since 2010 and the MG3 can already be noticed in the streets of the capital Baku. Finally Geely will export part of its Belarus production to Kazakhstan from 2014 onwards…
All other significant markets in the region have resisted the Chinese assault so far. Chery apparently assembles cars in Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam but their only claim to fame to-date has been the 27th place of the Chery Eastar in Malaysia in 2010. Geely assembles in Indonesia but the only models I saw in two weeks in Bali were a few MK2 taxis and one single Panda.
Hafei launched the Brio as the Naza Sutera in Malaysia in 2006, then renamed it Forza in 2007 without luck, while Chana’s attempt at launching the Era CV6 and CM8 there in 2009 also failed. Lifan assembles in Vietnam since 2007 and I did see one 520 sedan in Sapa when I travelled there but it seems DongFeng is having much more luck in the heavy commercial vehicle sector there. The situation is similar in Iran where Chery and Lifan have been assembling cars since 2006, and even though the Fulwin 2 hit a record #4 in April 2013, the volumes remain very small.
However the Chinese carmakers’ situation in Asia may change rather quickly, judging at how dynamic the entire Chinese delegation was at the Manila Auto Show in the Philippines one year ago, as I detailed in my article Manila Auto Show 2013: Has the time come for Chinese manufacturers? According to Leon Herrera, CEO of Chery Motors Philippines, Chery is “aiming at a spot in the Top 5 at the end of 2013 year and between 10 and 15% of the market” by 2015 which is exceptionally ambitious given this is Chery’s second attempt at cracking the Filipino market after the first one failed.
Paradoxically, their proximity with Asia seems to have worked against Chinese car manufacturers so far, giving a surprisingly less positive balance sheet in a region where defiance towards Chinese domination may have hindered their progress. Potentially not for too much longer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way?
Stay tuned for the final Part of this series about Mature markets!