* SUV maker eyeing start of manufacturing in 2016 - SIAM
* Indian SUV market booming, overall demand for cars cool (Adds detail, context)
By Henry Foy and Anurag Kotoky
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Great Wall Motor Co is in talks to open a plant in India, a move that would make it the first Chinese carmaker to operate in the country without a partner.
“They are meeting industry. They are meeting government. They are meeting suppliers,” Vishnu Mathur, director general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers - a lobby group, told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Great Wall, which sells its sport-utility vehicles and pick-up trucks in other emerging markets such as Russia and South Africa, is not yet present in India’s booming SUV market, one of a few bright spots in the local automotive industry.
China’s eighth-largest car maker, which sent a delegation to India last week, is targeting 2016 to start manufacturing in India, Mathur said, adding Great Wall executives met SIAM representatives last week.
Great Wall was not available to comment.
Passenger utility vehicle sales, helped by subsidies on diesel fuel, rose 62 percent in the April-November period, while car sales rose 1.3 percent.
New entrants will compete with market leader Mahindra and Mahindra and Tata Motors. Also, Italian carmaker Fiat said last week it would launch Jeep, an SUV brand controlled by U.S. subsidiary Chrysler, in late 2013.
While India has attracted billions of dollars investment from overseas manufacturers, such as Ford, General Motors and Toyota, Chinese carmakers have yet to make significant inroads.
Chinese group SAIC Motor Corp cut its stake in GM’s Indian operations to 9 percent in October, from 50 percent.
A slowdown in India’s car market over the past 18 months has raised fears of overcapacity, with sales expected to grow 1-3 percent in the financial year that ends in March.
Great Wall, China’s largest car maker without a foreign partner, aims to more than double annual sales by 2015 by targeting more overseas markets, its chairman said last month. (Additional reporting by Fang Yan in BEIJING; Editing by Dan Lalor)