... .. business


China's automobile exports skyrocketed during the first half of this year, but the volume was tiny when compared with the nation's total vehicle output and imports.

The nation exported 41,000 automobiles during the period, an increase of 266.4 per cent from a year earlier, according to Chinese customs statistics.

The exports, worth US$168 million, included 1,181 passenger cars, 250 sport-utility vehicles, 948 minivans, 1,306 large and medium-sized buses, 10,570 trucks and 26,688 other special-purpose vehicles.

China's automobile output reached 2.08 million units, and the country imported 90,600 units.

The exported vehicles are much cheaper than the imported ones as they have a low technology content.

The average price of an exported passenger car was US$12,500 per unit during the first half of this year, compared with US$25,493 for an imported vehicle.

The draft of a new government policy on the vehicle industry calls on China's motor manufacturers, including Sino-foreign joint ventures, to speed up their exports and engage more strongly with the international market.

China's auto makers have been trying to do this but have been unable to export on a large scale so far because of their high production costs and small economies of scale.

On Saturday, the privately owned Geely Group, based in East China's Zhejiang Province, started to ship 150 compact cars to the Middle East.

Xu Gang, the group's chief executive, told China Daily yesterday: "We are in contact with a slew of foreign sales companies, such as those from the United States, Viet Nam, Turkey and Iran, to export our cars.

"We expect to receive orders for thousands of cars by the end of this year."

Car makers based in China that have already exported passenger cars this year included Shanghai Volkswagen (a joint venture with Germany's Volkswagen Group), Shanghai GM (a joint venture with the US firm General Motors) and the Chery Automobile Co, a smaller player in East China's Anhui Province.

Volkswagen said it hopes to export vehicles produced en masse by its two Chinese joint ventures as they achieve better economies of scales in the coming years.

The German company's other joint venture is First Automotive Works Volkswagen, based in Northeast China's Jilin Province.

China exported more than US$2 billion worth of key auto components and spare parts during the first half of this year, according to customs statistics.

(China Daily 08/05/2003 page5)


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