BEIJING (Reuters) - Major Chinese state auto group Chongqing Changan Automobile Co (000625.SZ), which made its start as a mini van maker, on Sunday unveiled a new logo for its fast-growing passenger car business.
Changan’s branding initiative comes as many indigenous players, from Geely Automobile group (0175.HK) to Chery Automobile, are trying to broaden their image beyond that of purveyors of affordable but lower quality cars.
“From now on, all our sedans will carry the new V shape logo, including the higher-end sedan we are working on,” said Changan President Zhang Baolin.
“Changan’s exiting logo will be reserved for our commercial vehicles only,” Zhang told reporters on the sidelines of the new logo launch event.
The initiative differentiates Changan’s work horse mini vehicles from the more lucrative passenger car business.
Chinese automakers were mostly focused on the lower end of the domestic market, leaving the lucrative higher end to foreign brands such as General Motors GM.UL and Volkswagen (VOWG.DE).
But as wealth grows in what is now the world’s top auto market, many Chinese manufacturers are working harder than ever to tap the upper end.
Chery Automobile, whose QQ sells for as little as 30,000 yuan ($4,498), unveiled its first premier car G6 under the Riich brand in 2009. Its chairman, Yin Tongyao, hopes the G6 could challenge Volkswagen’s Audi A6 some day.
Changan makes small cars, such as the Yuexiang and BenBen. Its first premium model is expected to roll off the production line next year, Zhang said.
In the first nine months, Changan and its parent firm sold 1.71 million vehicles, ranking number four in the country, official data showed.
Company Chairman Xu Liuping has set an ambitious target to sell 3 million cars annually in 2012, rising to 4.5 million units by 2015 and to 6 million by 2020.
While focusing on their home market, several Chinese automakers are seeking to expand ties with their foreign partners beyond the current terms and conditions.
SAIC Motor (600104.SS) and GM set up a joint venture in India, making SAIC’s Wuling brand mini trucks and vans, a move that could expand GM’s market share in India and give the top Chinese automaker access to a fast-growing neighbouring market.
Changan and the number two Detroit automaker had also explored joint initiatives overseas, but no agreement has been reached so far, Zhang told Reuters.
“The idea is to use Ford’s existing sales network to sell Changan’s mini vehicles overseas. But we had never talked about a new joint venture outside China,” he added.
Reporting by Fang Yan and Ken Wills; Editing by Michael Shields