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SAIC shifts focus from exports to local market
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-11-20 10:59

SAIC Motor Corp will focus on the domestic market for now, a top executive said on the sidelines of the Auto China show, indicating the company might put back its timetable to start exports of own-brand sedans next year.

In April, the country's biggest carmaker unveiled an ambitious plan to begin shipping cars developed by itself overseas as early as next year, including to Europe, reaching 45,000 units by 2010.
"We want to be internationally competitive and the best way to do that is to focus on China," said SAIC executive vice-president Philip Murtaugh, the former China chief of General Motors Corp.

"We think it would be a mistake to rush off trying to sell everywhere in the world when we are really a young brand. We have a lot to learn," he said, referring to SAIC's first own-brand car, the Roewe.

After churning out Buicks and Santanas at ventures with GM and Volkswagen for years, SAIC officially rolled out the Roewe - developed based on acquired technologies from MG Rover - during the Beijing car show, targeting the upper middle class.

SAIC had hoped to obtain rights to use the iconic British Rover brand from the owner, BMW, as part of its efforts to go global. But it lost the battle to Ford Motor in September.

That would make SAIC's chances of exporting to Europe more difficult, analysts said. Mr Murtaugh insisted that the Rover name was not an issue.

Other Chinese players, such as Geely Automobile Holdings and Chery Automobile, also hope to replicate the global success of companies like Toyota Motor Corp eventually.

But a lack of design savvy, as well as strict safety standards in target countries, among other factors, could hamper foreign sales by Chinese carmakers especially in developed markets, analysts say. It could take 10 to 15 years before Chinese carmakers could emerge as a significant force globally.

[South China Morning Post] 
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