It plans a grand opening of its first dealership in Radom in central Poland. China Motors already has a dealership in Gdansk. Like China Motors, Great Wall will offer cars much cheaper than those made in Europe.
The company will offer two models to start with – the off-road Hover and the Deer pick-up. The Hover, which boasts an automatic transmission and leather upholstery, will cost 70,000 zloty, or 30,000 less than a comparable Japanese model, the Toyota RAV4.
The Chinese and Japanese models look similar, but experts say the Toyota has a more modern engine. The Hover’s engine was designed in the 1990s.
The Deer, whose engine was also designed in the 1990s, costs about 50,000 zloty, or 30,000 less than a comparable Toyota Hilux or Mitsubishi L-200. The Hilux boasts a modern diesel engine that burns much cleaner than the Deer’s. In addition, it has air bags, while the Deer does not.
Although Chinese cars may not be at the cutting edge in technology, rivals will never be able to compete with them on price. The key is cheap Chinese labour. An factory worker gets 28 euro an hour in Europe, 20 in the U.S. and 3/4 of a euro in China.
In addition, the quality of materials that the Chinese use are nowhere near as good as those in European, American or Japanese cars, experts say. That may be one reason that Chinese cars perform poorly in safety tests.
But Bohdan Bogucki, a China Motors representative, said the time for Chinese cars has come. Chinese companies are already offering vehicles that can compete with other makers, he said. In his opinion, the only thing keeping Chinese cars from gaining a bigger toehold in Europe is the lack of a major investor.
European makers, fearful of Chinese cars’ price advantage, hope they can manufacture models with more cutting-edge technology for years to come. They are aware, however, that Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans were once considered cheap and unsophisticated. Today Japanese cars are believed to be among the best in the world.
Some Polish car journalists however, contend that comparing the Japanese cars of yesteryear with today’s Chinese offering is unfair to Japanese makers. They claim Japanese cars that were made decades ago were not put together in the slipshod fashion that some of today’s Chinese cars are.
Price will play a role in the Chinese cars’ success in Europe “but not the leading one,” said Tomasz Puchalski, who writes for Auto Tydzien.
Time will tell whether Poles will embrace Chinese cars. For the time being, many are skeptical. “Once someone said that poor people cannot afford cheap things,” said automotive journalist Wojciech Walczuk. “It is true.”
Many Poles will be reluctant to spend thousands of zloty on a Chinese car because it is untried and untested, he said. “We know nothing about Chinese cars – about their durability, quality and technology,” Walczuk said.
Other auto writers say Chinese car makers will prove themselves over time. “We should not look down on Chinese companies,” said Jarosalw Maznos, editor in chief of Auto Moto. They “will achieve higher standards,” he said.
The problem is that much of Chinese car-making is based on the technology of 15 to 20 years ago. This means their cars are still not comparable to those made in Europe, Japan or the U.S.
But if the jumps in Japanese and Korean quality over the decades is any example, Chinese cars are likely to get better and better.