| SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Sept 13
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Sept 13 A Chinese-made car is
set to make its international movie debut in the fourth
"Transformers" film next year in a product placement aimed at
raising the profile of Chinese models abroad.
The Trumpchi E-jet, a sleek, plug-in electric hybrid
developed by state-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd (GAC)
, will feature in "Transformers: Age of
Extinction", the fourth in the popular movie franchise due for
release in mid-2014, said two people close to GAC, based in the
southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
The "Transformers" series has previously featured other
Chinese brands, including PC and TV makers Lenovo Group Ltd
and TCL Corp, and Meters/bonwe, a leading
leisurewear brand. The movies are among the most popular to be
released in China, with "Transformers 3, Dark of the Moon"
grossing $165 million in 2011.
"Product placements with "Transformers" would boost the
profile of GAC's car brands both at home and abroad," said one
of those close to the carmaker, which has local joint ventures
with Fiat SpA, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Toyota
Motor Corp and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Neither source wanted to be named due to confidentiality
agreements they signed in connection with the upcoming film. A
spokesperson for Paramount Pictures, the movie's
distributor, said the company wouldn't confirm specific brands
until nearer the release date. Paramount's local partner, China
Movie Channel, declined to comment.
The new movie is being filmed in both the United States and
China, with Chinese singer/actor Han Geng making his
English-language debut, according to a blog posted on Paramount
Pictures' Facebook page.
The film's producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, told the
Beijing News earlier this month the movie would feature
locally-made cars. "The world's coolest, most exciting cars will
appear in the film, including Chinese vehicles, so whether
you're a car enthusiast or not, it will be a feast for the
eyes," he said.
It wasn't clear if the Trumpchi E-jet would be cast as an
heroic 'autobot' or evil 'decepticon' - humanoid robots that
turn into familiar machines and mechanical objects - or have a
more limited non-transforming, drive-on role.
One of those close to GAC said the firm wouldn't want the
E-jet to be cast in an evil role. Ultimately, casting will be
down to the movie's director Michael Bay.
Previous "Transformers" movies have featured an 'autobot'
called Bumblebee based on the Chevrolet Camaro, prompting
the company to bring out a Camaro Transformers Special Edition
in 2011, which sold more than 1,500 globally, said Michael
Albano, a Chevrolet spokesman in Detroit, adding: "We very much
look forward to Camaro reprising its role in the upcoming film."
The E-jet, which GAC showed off at the Detroit auto show in
January, is a concept car, which the company currently has no
plans to commercialize.
As growth slows in the world's largest auto market from
break-neck speeds over the past decade, GAC aims to have exports
of its Trumpchi brand account for a fifth of total sales in five
years. It currently sells just a few hundred cars overseas. Last
year, GAC earned a profit of 1.1 billion yuan on sales of around
13 billion yuan ($2.12 billion).
Other Chinese carmakers such as Geely Automobile Holdings
Ltd, Beijing Automotive Group and Warren
Buffett-backed BYD Co Ltd are stepping up
their export efforts. After years of partnerships with foreign
automakers, Chinese firms are promoting their home-grown brands
under President Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream" campaign.
GAC Vice President Xiangdong Huang said this year his
company would target emerging markets in Southeast Asia and the
Middle East with a line-up of no-frills, gasoline-fuelled cars,
while pushing its "new energy" models at developed markets such
as the United States.
China last year opened its market to more U.S. movies, and
the country's box office grew by 36 percent to $2.7 billion,
making it Hollywood's largest international market.
Also last year, China's privately-owned Dalian
Wanda Group, the world's biggest owner of movie theaters, bought
U.S. theater chain AMC Entertainment Inc for $2.6 billion.