Special Coverage

Auto Show

GENEVA – Importers for two Chinese auto makers displayed their vehicles at last week’s auto show here, and while there were not as many vehicles as several years ago, the show cars were more close to production.

Both Brilliance Auto Group and Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. have begun deliveries in Europe, although the Chery vehicles are not being sold under that brand name.

Brilliance was at the show for the third time through HSO Motors Europe S.a.r.l., its Luxembourg-based distributor. The Brilliance BS4 sedan has been on sale in Germany since January, and HSO President Hans-Ulrich Sachs introduced the station wagon version here that he intends to launch in several months.

Sachs says he has imported 626 units of the B4 into Germany so far, selling them for €15,990 ($20,254). HSO also displaced the larger BS6 sedan and the smaller BS2 city car, both of which are undergoing homologation proceedings for Europe.

DR Motor Co. of Isernia, Italy, was at the show for the first time with its rebadged and up-fitted Chery models. CEO Luca Falasca says his company last year registered 1,953 DR5 2-wheel-drive cross/utility vehicles with a 0.6L engine, which are versions of the Chery Tiggo.

The two importers expect quick expansion in Europe this year. HSO says European homologation should be completed soon on its BS4, and Sachs plans a launch in May for France, Italy and Spain.

DR Motor expects to start selling a 3-door DR3 Chinese CUV in May with a 2.0L engine, as well as 2.0L versions of the DR5 with 4-wheel drive or with automatic transmissions. The company also plans to sell a 1.3L DR1 city car based on the Chery S18 “before summer,” plus a 1.3L DR2 super-mini based on the Chery A1 “after summer.”

DR Motor began selling a DR5 with a 1.9L diesel mill last October, with deliveries starting soon. All the DR engines are rated for Euro 4 emissions standards, so getting them on the market before Euro 5 takes effect this fall is important to the business plan.

Brilliance still is searching for a diesel to supplement its 1.3L and 1.5L gasoline versions already available. Sachs says the auto maker dropped a Chinese diesel-engine project and now is looking to Italy and France for a diesel supplier.

Brilliance also is working with FEV Inc., the powertrain-engineering firm, to develop turbocharged 1.8L and 2.0L gasoline engines that will power the BS4 Wagon.

Sachs says Brilliance is working on a hybrid powertrain that could be launched in 2011, and that the auto maker intends to launch 10 new models starting in 2011, including an SUV and MPV.

Brilliance has big plans, and HSO Motors has been steadfast in supporting the auto maker in Europe, but Brilliance is not a big company. While it has been BMW AG’s partner in China since 2003, Brilliance failed to make money in 2008, manufacturing only 76,812 units, down 33% from prior-year’s 115,008.

DR Motor has done better in volume, with 3,000 orders, so far, Falasca says. By the year’s second half, the company will have distributors in Spain, Austria and Holland, and next year in Germany and France.

The DR5 is priced at €15,830 ($20,051) for either the gasoline-powered or alternative-fuels model that can run on compressed-natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, the cost of the latter subsidized by Italian incentives.

The cars are up-fitted with antilock brakes, airbags, metallic paint, alloy wheels, MP3 music system and other amenities to satisfy Italian customers, Falasca says.

DR Motor began selling cars at hypermarkets in Italy and now is adding traditional dealers. The company imports semi-knocked-down kits and does the assembly.

“We paint some parts, like the roof, bumper and rear hatch,” Falasca says. “We have a lot of work on the diesel version,” which is imported without its powertrain.