Five Foreign Auto Brands Worth Watching in 2013

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Foreign auto brands have had their run of the Chinese market since they first came in 1984, the popularity of foreign autos has sky rocketed over the past few years with Chinese brands struggling to maintain their market share. Although foreign brands own the lions share of the market, some brands have only just entered or are going through a period of change and adjustment as they try to get their brands on track in China.

These foreign brands are the ones to watch in 2013.

1. Ford

When compared to GM’s multi brand strategy in the Chinese market, GM have had the luxury of running Buick, Chevrolet, Wuling and of course Baojun in China which has boosted their sales considerably. If we take Wuling sales out of the equation (over a million cars per year) then GM’s sales fall considerably. Ford doesn’t have the luxury of having a multi brand strategy to boost it sales, it will however launch Lincoln in the Chinese market in the next few years to take advantage of the booming luxury auto market but Lincoln’s current design language is likely to be difficult pill for luxury Chinese consumers who seem to prefer more down to earth luxury styling in their cars, hence the popularity of black Audi A6′s in the Chinese market. Ford is working hard to bring more vehicles to the Chinese market and has ramped up production capacity as well, a new factory is being built in Hangzhou and others are being expanded. The new Ford Ecosport, Ford Focus ST, Ford Kuga, New Mondeo and facelift Fiesta are heading into production over the course of 2013 in partnership with Chang’an Auto, but Ford’s other partner Jiangling (where the Transit van is made) are also going to be on the receiving end of the Ford Explorer and possibly an updated Transit, and if rumors are true, a new Ford Ranger pick up truck.

Older models wont disappear from the market just yet though, the Blue Oval will also be selling multi generational products alongside each other. The current Ford Fiesta is likely to become part of a new sub brand according to the rumor mill, and a new low cost B segment sedan and hatch are on the way.

2. Fiat

Fiat China finally came back to the Chinese market with locally built models in 2012. The Fiat Viaggio is based heavily on the Dodge Dart, albeit with some design changes for the Chinese market and some slight engineering changes to make it more comfortable for Chinese roads. The Viaggio was aired in Beijing Auto Show in April and launched in September, first month sales are fairly strong with over 6000 sales reported in Oct and over 7000 in November. As Fiat widens its sales network in the Chinese market from just 96 to circa 120 dealers in 2013 and brings in more models, we can expect that Fiat will grow quite well. Fiat’s range of small cars is likely to be a hit with Chinese consumers, if the marketing gets done right. Chinese Fiat owners are a loyal bunch, which Fiat are recognising with an 8000RMB subsidy for anyone who trades their old Nanjing-Fiat in for a new GAC-Fiat.

3. PSA

PSA entered China in the 90′s, Citroen’s tie up with Dongfeng was a wise choice, but Peugeot’s tie up with Guangzhou Auto ended with a sales failure after Peugeot seemed quite content in serving up the already ancient 507 to an uninterested Chinese audience. Dongfeng-Citroen’s early start in the Chinese market gave us the Citroen ZX which is still on the market today but the French auto giant focused heavily on the European market during the good times and seemingly remembered about China when the European market turned sour. PSA have gotten their mojo back, they revamped product lines in China with the Peugot 505 and the Citroen C5, but older models such as the 206 (and Citroen C2) linger on in the background. PSA also signed a joint venture with Chang’an Auto, named CAPSA, that will produce the DS range in the Shenzhen market. DS cars are currently imported into China and haven’t had a major impact as of yet owing to overly high prices but the locally produced models are going to be less costly and will open the brand to a wider audience. With increasingly more Chinese consumers looking to buy vehicles that fit around their multifaceted lifestyles rather than being purely business orientated, we can expect the DS line to lift off.

4. Qoros

What exactly is Qoros? Is it an international brand or a Chinese brand? On one side you have an Israeli company that is flush with cash and wants to enter the car making business and on the other side you have Chery who are quite adept at making cars. Qoros is headed by auto industry leaders that have gained their experience in running car companies all over the world, Qoros essentially is set to become the Apple of the car world, an international design team producing in China and selling globally. The first model will be launched at the Geneva Auto Show and is a three box sedan, much like the current VW Jetta/Sagitar, no word on the market launch yet but the car is much awaited.

5. Luxgen

Lugen are born of the Yulong Group of Taiwan and have put their produce into production in the Chinese mainland with Dongfeng. Although they are a Taiwanese company, and as according to the Chinese government Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, the brand had to sign a JV with Dongfeng before they could set up a car making factory in China. Taiwan is famous for its electronics and has managed to cram a Lexus level of electronics into a car that costs Honda pricing. The first model to hit the Chinese market was the Luxgen 7 SUV which has proven to be a popular with its 2.0T and 2.2T engines, the second model was the MASTER CEO, a four seater MPV aimed at, as the name suggests CEO’s, whom were able to sit in the rear of the car as if it was a limo. A 7 seater version is on its way in the not too distant future. A Luxgen Sedan is also on the company’s production rosta with the model expected to launch in the summer of 2013.

Did we miss a brand out? Are there any brands that you think should have made the above list? Let us know via the comment box.

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  • Matt
    December 31, 2012

    Also looking forward to the development of Luxgen and Qoros.

  • dragin
    December 31, 2012

    Is it fair to include Qoros on a list such as this? For now it’s no more than an idea, a pipe dream. This neophyte upstart must first prove its mettle in a tough and crowded market. With other vested interests under development, Chery is not prepared to devote its undivided attention to the venture. Anyway we’ll be watching carefully.

  • Momo
    January 1, 2013

    “Peugeot seemed quite content in serving up the already ancient 507″ – small typo here, I think you meant 505 :)

  • dragin
    January 1, 2013

    Or, old 504 from 1985, then 505 not until 1988..

  • Ash
    January 2, 2013

    Noted! Thanks!

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