/ Motoring

Will we buy China’s cars?

MG6 car

Chinese car manufacturer Great Wall has announced plans to sell its cars in the UK next year. But will its cars steer their way into British buyers’ hearts and minds?

Great Wall’s plans to enter the UK follow the long-running MG saga, which will reportedly bring the MG6, a Chinese-built medium car, to the UK by the end of 2010.

These represent the first serious attempt at car sales for Chinese brands for some time (the tiny-selling MG TF doesn’t really count).

Previous scare stories

Chinese brands have been making noises about UK imports for a while now, but they’ve been scared off by previous European sagas – like the LandWind and Brilliance crash test disasters (both of which halted imports).

Personally, I’m surprised it’s taken Chinese brands so long to import. Apparently, part of the reason for the delay is that China’s factories are working flat-out to satisfy local demand – which, in the world’s biggest populace, is potentially enormous.

But will these cars suit the tastes of British car buyers?

Back to the future

There’s an interesting parallel to draw with Japan’s cars, which were considered cheap and nasty in the early Seventies. Now, no one is laughing. Honda, Nissan and Toyota even build their cars here in the UK. And Japanese brands consistently perform well in the Which? Car survey.

I think it’s only a matter of time before we embrace China’s cars, with brands like Changfeng, Great Wall and Roewe soon being commonplace on our roads.


Well, we’re getting used to the likes of Kia, so if it’s cheap and good, people are going to buy them. That’s also sad for someone who remembers the shining metal of a well engineered BSA motorbike and the Honda revolution that put them out of business. Our manufacturing base shrinks steadily and, with it, a bit of national pride.

Agree with previous poster – even to my BSA motorcycle ( Though my Vincent was a finer machine) If the car is good and cheap people will buy it.- Sadly to the detriment of any UK built cars.

We certainly do need more investment in the UK manufacturing industry – otherwise we will continue to have an unacceptable unenployment rate for our own countries’ workers. We already have more unemployed than jobs – this is exacerbated by EU workers and immigrants.

I thought China had an enormous, locally unmeetable, need for steel. How could they manufacture for export on any scale if they are struggling for raw materials even for internal use?
As for the environmental impact of moving steel from producing countries to China to make cars to export to Europe….

In response to "Lorely’s" comment – Japan, too, has no raw materials, just about everything has to be imported in order to manufacture, "add value" and then export. The Japanese mantra after WW2 was "Export or Die". We know which option they took – and from the lowest starting point imaginable. China is starting from a better position, although I acknowledge that they have a huge internal market to satisfy as well.

lucky77 says:
4 August 2010

I think Geely’s acquisition of Volvo is an interesting step towards making Chinese cars more palatable for European customers. It’s unclear how much manufacturing will shift to China (not doubt some parts at least), but from now on, if you buy a Volvo you’re buying into the Chinese automotive industry. It’s certainly possible more famous European brands could go this way in the years to come.

Another aspect of this deal is that China needs to raise the safety standards of its domestically produced cars (as those shocking Landwind and Brilliance crash videos show). Who better to bring safety expertise to the table than Volvo?

Ray, says:
6 August 2010

I cannot agree more with this comment, but have you noticed the rapid decline in the size of the whole Volvo range ? Being over six feet tall myself, and well built, I have been a Volvo driver for many many years, but when my T70 estarte goes to the big scrap yard in the sky I am afraid it will be my last Volvo. The eastern body frame is a lot smaller than ours in general so there size and relability is in jepardy much to my regret.

Jeff says:
5 August 2010

If the cars are good and cheap then they’ll sell. Apart from Morgan and Bristol there are no British owned manufacturers in the U.K. so maybe we should all be buying Honda, Toyota and BMW to support British jobs. My BMW was made in Germany but the engine was made in England.

Sticky Toffee says:
6 August 2010

We have a Honda Jazz which has proved to be extremely reliable in Which tests. My understanding is that until last year when production was switched to Swindon, they were made in China

Back in the 60’s, people were wary of buying Japanese – look how they are doing now. Latterly, people were unsure of Korean cars, but they, too, are proving successful. Keen pricing and good equipment levels, plus strong reliability has helped to establish these Eastern manufacturers and now the Japanese are producung cars all over the world (because labour is cheaper than in Japan and they also get round import quotas). Given the vast manufacturing capacity of the Chinese and the current cheap labour market, exports to Europe, USA and beyond is certain to happen, if quality meets expectations at keen prices. We might be a little slow to embrace these products at first, but we will certainly be buying, especially at the cheaper end of the market. With vitually no true British manufacturers, loyalty to our own industry is not an issue, though many will prefer to buy Japanese to preserve British jobs. We are already buying many Chinese sourced domestic products, so country of production is becoming less of an issue, especially if we can seek to balance trade in other forms.

Alan 6/8/2010

In the ’60s, some of the Japanese cars were absolute rot-boxes, like a lot of other cars. It’s not much good having a decent engine if the body rusts away. In the early days, spares for J*p cars were often difficult/expensive to obtain.

Jock says:
6 August 2010

It will all depend on the quality and reliability of the cars and the after sales service of their dealers. Look how Hyundai and Kia have made progress. And remember the old jokes about Skoda? Nuff said.

Taking the Roewe as an example, if the Chinese can sort out the inherent problems of its British predecessor (the Rover 75) they will have a potential winner on their hands. My 75 handled brilliantly, was extremely comfortable and good looking but was let down by the well known mechanical problems which dogged the petrol engined version of this model, not least of which was the costly replacement of its cylinder head gasket.

Provided the quality and safety standards are OK and the vehicles are priced right, Chinese made cars should sell in the UK.

Supermart says:
1 December 2010

I do not believe for one second that the Chinese mindset is anything akin to the Japanese. The Japanese learned very quickly in the 70s that the need for quality is paramount for Europe and the USA. During the 80s were fast becoming recognised for their engineering expertise. Now almost every Japanese manufacturer is recognised as an engineering and quality innovator and are brand leaders in many categories.
Conversely since the mid to late 90s the chinese have been exporting vast numbers of Japanese scooter and light motorcycle clones, which were absolute rubbish! Many would fail an MOT after 3 months. Here we are at the end of 2010 and they are absolutely unchanged!!!

These are the only really informed comments worth reading. Having worked in Japan and China at “close quarters” recently there is no doubt the the differences in culture and attitude between the two countriess will last a very long time. There is simply no comparison. Economists, journalists, etc. will go on treating things like cars at commodities to be “valued” on superficial aspects and price, unappreciative of the finer aspect of design and manufacturing quality. No one, not even the Germans, (and I have worked in Germany for German companies) can match it. It has to be experienced to be believed.

Christopher Williams says:
15 August 2011

I am a proud owner of a Daihatsu Sirion and I would buy another one if they were being imported still.

If a Chinese made car was as good as my faithful Sirion then I would at least consider buying one.

Norfolk Guy says:
4 February 2012

I would never buy intentionally anything made in China regardless of quality, mileage, gadgets included, etc. Even though China is manufacturing just about everything these days for the “west”, their government is STILL COMMUNIST. The free world is feeding the communists in China what’s left of our wealth everytime we purchase something made there. Your children will not thank you sometime in the future when the the Chinese, funded with our money, stake their claim on global supremacy….

Phil says:
4 February 2012

Whatever car you drive it’s highly likely that it already has some Chinese made components.

Finding electronic goods that have no connection with China is also difficult.

Wavechange turns his Apple laptop over and reads ‘Assembled in China’.