Great Wall Motor to make cars in Bulgaria

Great Wall Motor to make cars in Bulgaria

SOFIA- Agence France-Presse
With a brand new Bulgarian plant set to start churning out cars by end-February, China’s Great Wall Motor hopes to establish a foothold to expand sales across Europe, says its local partner Litex Motors.

“This is the first plant for a Chinese auto maker that will produce in Europe and for Europe,” Litex Motors marketing director Ivo Dekov said in an interview with Agence France-Presse ahead of the plant’s opening on February 21.

The facility in the northern village of Bahovitsa will initially employ 150 workers, capable of making 4,000 automobiles per year from China-imported kits. “But production will increase as the markets here and in other European countries develop,” Dekov said.

“We can produce an annual 50,000 vehicles with 2,000 workers on two shifts, or even 71-72,000 on three shifts,” he said.

Bulgaria’s qualified and competitive workforce as well as its low taxes made the poor EU newcomer an ideal starting base to enter the common EU market for Great Wall Motor, one of the biggest sports utility vehicle makers in China, Dekov said.

“Our partners consider Europe a strategic market and count on entering it gradually but permanently, with good products and a successful strategy.”

“But it is only natural that our primary goal is to also become a leader in the domestic market,” he added.

Litex signed a deal for a joint venture with Great Wall Motor in 2009 that would allow the Chinese group to export tax-free to the common EU market. Now the Bulgarian group aims to achieve the same market share -- about 30 percent -- as other automakers with locally produced cars in neighbouring Romania, Serbia and Turkey, according to Dekov.

“Of course, we will need time to do that as we are only learning to walk right now,” he said.

The plant, which has been test producing since mid-November, is ready to start sales immediately of two locally-assembled Great Wall models -the Voleex C10 city car and the Steed 5 pick-up, with prices ranging between 16,000 and 25,000 leva ($10,700-16,700). Over 200 imported vehicles were already sold in Bulgaria between mid-October and end-2011, Dekov said.