AUTOSHOW-UPDATE 1-Brilliance plans US sales as early as 2007

Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:22am EDT

By Fang Yan

SHANGHAI, April 23 (Reuters) - Chinese automaker Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei plans to ship its first sedans to the United States as early as this year, potentially making it China's first home-grown carmaker to crack the world's largest vehicle market.

Brilliance Jinbei, a unit of Brilliance China Automotive Holdings (1114.HK), last year became the first of its Chinese peers to secure a major sales deal in Europe, beginning with its BS6 mid-ranged sedan priced at 19,000 to 23,000 euros ($31,270). "We are making preparations currently and hope to ship the first batch of BS6s to the United States late this year or in early 2008," Brilliance Jinbei President Zhigang Liu told Reuters on the sidelines of the Shanghai auto show late on Sunday.

The initial sales target and other details have yet to be worked out, he said.

Brilliance, BMW's (BMWG.DE) China partner, is among a growing army of ambitious Chinese auto manufacturers, such as Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. (0175.HK), that aim to emulate the global success of Toyota Motor Corp. (7267.T).

Brilliance plans to sell 158,000 sedans to Europe over the next five years, including the BS6, following up with a coupe, a smaller sedan, a compact car and a sport utility vehicle by 2010.

Chery Automobile Co., which has made inroads into emerging markets in recent years, struck a deal with DaimlerChrysler DCXGn.DE in late 2006 to make Chrysler-branded models for Europe and other markets.

PHASED EXPANSION

Previously little-known Nanjing Automotive Group, which stunned the industry in 2005 by snapping up major assets of failed MG Rover for little more than $100 million, unveiled in March the first China-made MG cars. It plans to start selling them in British Commonwealth countries in the second half.

If these initial steps proceed smoothly, China's vehicle makers could become a force to be reckoned with in the global market, although they still rely heavily on low pricing to attract customers.

Brilliance, which also makes BMWs and Minis in a venture in northeast China, is building a new plant for its own-brand cars that will double its capacity of 150,000 units.

The group sold 200,000 vehicles, including BMW brands, in 2006 and aims to boost that figure to 300,000 units this year and to 500,000 by 2015, Liu said.

"We are restrained by capacity already but we have decided to avoid ramping up too quickly. The best strategy is to grow with the market," he said.

He added that Brilliance, having spent at least 10 billion yuan on research and development for its sedans so far, would follow up by investing a similar amount in the next five years.

SAIC Motor Corp., a Chinese partner of both General Motors (GM.N) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE), is spending $1.71 billion to develop its own brands.

SAIC, the country's biggest car maker, last year rolled out its first brand of its own, the Roewe, based on acquired technology, and unveiled two more models -- the Roewe W2 and a Shanghai brand fuel-cell car -- at the auto show.

Liu did not rule out the possibility that Brilliance would acquire competing brands, domestic or foreign, when the opportunity arises.

"Some have already made big strides down that road and we would do likewise when we grow bigger," he said.

($1=.7356 Euro; $1=7.726 Yuan)

((Reporting by Fang Yan, editing by Edmund Klamann; Reuters Messaging: yan.fang.reuters.com@reuters.net; +86 21 6104 1793)) Keywords: AUTOSHOW BRILLIANCE/USA Keywords: AUTOSHOW BRILLIANCE/USA

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