Geely seeks to prove quality to woo UK buyers

Updated: 2011-12-28 09:41

By Cecily Liu and Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)

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LONDON - As Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd, the largest independent Chinese vehicle manufacturer, plans to enter the United Kingdom market, one of its first priorities will be to convince customers that its cars are safe and do more than offer "value for money".

Geely seeks to prove quality to woo UK buyers

The Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd Emgrand EC7 vehicle is considered one of the safest Chinese cars. [Photo/ Bloomberg]

Earlier this month, Geely announced it would bring a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback to the UK next year, each selling for about 10,000 pounds ($15,600), according to the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph

"As to the customers, the market is getting tougher and (the) latest reports I have seen suggest it's not just prices but also warranties which are influencing buying decisions," said Tim Williams, chief executive of the trade association Welsh Automotive Forum.

Williams said Geely will want to "focus on" quality and expressed uncertainty about the Chinese carmaker's prospects in the UK market.

"We'll have to wait and see how well Geely does," he said.

"British consumers like good quality cars and they also enjoy changes once in a while."

He noted that the holding company of Geely owns the car brand Volvo. That, he said, will help boost the company's sales, "because British consumers trust Volvo as a quality brand with good after-sales service".

Geely said Volvo, a Swedish carmaker, operates separately from Geely Auto UK, whose models will be well-equipped and come with a five-year, 100,000-mile (160,900 kilometers) warranty.

The Emgrand EC7 will not be the first Chinese car to be sold in the UK. The only new MG to be seen in 16 years, introduced in Birmingham by the carmaker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp in April, has drummed up more than 3 million pounds of business in just two weeks through the sale of 180 cars.

"I think there are plenty of opportunities," said Lord Stephen Green, British minister for trade and investment, when asked if Britons would like Geely cars.

"British consumers would always like good value products no matter where it comes from. Britain is not just a market for cars, but also an exporter of cars all around the world and in Europe," he said.

But being cheap is not good enough, according to Nikki Jones, director of the consulting company Calling Brands.

Citing research, she said UK consumers have "lots of questions" about the safety and reliability of Chinese brands.

"In the car industry, this is even more so the case. They (Geely) are trying to market themselves as good-value-for-money, but they need to make sure UK consumers understand what 'value' means," Jones said, referring to Geely vehicles' "poor performance" in crash tests.

The CK 1 sedan, one of Geely's exported models, received zero stars in the first-ever round of the Latin American New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) crash test, which took place in late 2010.

"Geely really has to deliver a clear message about their cars' quality to counteract the 'made-in-China' image of cheap and low quality," Jones said.

Geely International has adopted "beyond value" as its slogan and, since July 2002, has established dealerships with more than 50 overseas distributors. Its overseas vehicle sales exceed 100,000.

Geely's Emgrand EC7 is considered one of the safest Chinese cars.

It achieved a five-star safety rating in the China-New Car Assessment Program, which conducts various tests on vehicles. That rating was the maximum obtainable, according to a company release in January.

The car is the second of Geely's models to make that grade. The first was the Geely Panda, which did so in 2009.

"With the vision of making the safest car, Geely has made efforts for higher quality and safety," according to the release.