World / Europe

Chinese investors seek new auto industry opportunities in UK

By Cecily Liu ( Updated: 2016-05-19 00:36
Chinese investors seek new auto industry opportunities in UK

Jonathan Browning, chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the Chinese delegation's interest to invest in Coventry's automotive and advanced manufacturing industry, May 18, 2016. [Photo by Jiang Shan/]

Chinese investors are eyeing new investments in the UK's automotive sector, taking heritage brands and niche technology in the UK's automotive sector to the Chinese and global markets.

On Wednesday a group of about 30 Chinese businessmen attended a conference at Coventry Transport Museum to meet potential British business partners in automotive manufacturing, automotive supply chain, and automotive research and development, to discuss cooperation opportunities.

Jonathan Browning, chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the Chinese delegation's interest to invest in the central city of Coventry's automotive and advanced manufacturing industry.

"Coventry is the hub of the UK's automotive sector, with a big concentration of automotive companies, automotive supply chain firm and universities with research and development expertise in this sector," said Browning.

In recent years many Chinese firms have invested in Coventry-linked automotive businesses, including Geely's acquisition of the London Taxi Company and Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group's acquisition of Covpress and UYT, both suppliers to the automotive sector.

Covpress specializes in pressing material to be used in the car manufacturing process, and UYT uses robotics technology for the welding of the different car parts. Both companies have a long history of supplying to big names in the automotive sector like Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, and fresh capital investment from the Chinese firm allowed them to grow in scale.

Meanwhile, since Geely's acquisition of London Taxi, it is now building a new plant at Ansty, a village on the outskirts of Coventry, with an investment of 250 million pounds ($365 million). More recently, in November, China Red Sun Group completed a 300 million pounds investment in Cad Cam Automotive, a supplier of vehicle and automotive product prototypes.

Chinese investors seek new auto industry opportunities in UK

Part of the Chinese delegation, including cars importers from Tianjin, exchange their views with UKTI on British Niche brands like this Marlin posed herself in front of the Transportation Museum at Coventry. [Photo by Jiang Shan/China Daily]

China overtook the US to become the world's largest automotive market in 2010. Last year, auto sales in China reached a new high of 21.1 million passenger cars, a 7.3 percent year on year increase from 2014, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

In recent years, Chinese domestic car brands have increased in influence, as 2015 data show that sales of Chinese domestic car brands rose 15 percent from a year earlier to 8.7 million vehicles, beating the overall industry's growth. Therefore overseas investments by Chinese automotive brands like Geely represent an industry-wide trend.

"The Chinese investment in Coventry has already helped these local companies grow significantly, due to the investment in upgrading facilities and technologies," said Browning.

The delegation is led by the Investment Promotion Agency of Chinese Ministry of Commerce (CIPA), and the trip is organized by UK Trade and Investment and the Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub.

Lin Ruochen, Director of Machinery and Mechanical Engineering Department at CIPA, said that the unique areas that the UK has to offer for new energy cars include motor, battery, electrical control and charging technologies.

Craig Humphrey, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub, said the fact that the delegation had chosen Coventry over any other locations in the UK underlined the potential of the area. "There is global competition to attract Chinese investment but we now have considerable experience and success in the field."

"Outside investors know that when they come to this area they will be offered help and support and that (the local government) will do everything in their powers to ensure the investment achieves its potential," said Humphrey.

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