Bulgaria Says Back on Global Car Production Map
Sixteen years after Bulgaria's last failed attempt to revive its automobile industry, the first car under the Great Wall badge assembled here has been rolled out at a factory near the town of Lovech, Northern Bulgaria.
Cars produced by China's Great Wall already hit the Bulgarian market in October this year through a network of twelve representative show rooms across the country.
Voleex C10 sedan, Hover H5 SUV and Steed pickup are the three different vehicle models, which Chinese car maker Great Wall Motor Co and Bulgarian company Litex Motors will produce in the town of Lovech, Northern Bulgaria, at very competitive prices.
Production is expected to commence at the beginning of next year amid expectations for a furore not least because of the cars' low prices.
Great Wall Motor Company, one of China's biggest automotive manufacturers, signed a joint venture (JV) deal with Bulgarian diversified holding company Litex Commerce in the presence of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov at the end of 2009.
The plant will have an annual production capacity of 50,000 units and assemble four different models – a sports utility vehicle (SUV), a pickup and two passenger car models, which are expected to be sold in European Union countries.
The total initial investment is around EUR 97 M, potentially reaching EUR 300 M if the project is successful. The Chinese company has secured 10% of the money, the remainder was forked out by Litex Motors, owned by petrol businessman and owner of Litex football club Grisha Ganchev.
The cars are expected to be sold under the Great Wall badge, boosting the firm's output from around 400,000 at present.
The project is considered to be nothing short of a coup for Bulgaria, which does not currently produce any passenger vehicles, though it does have a modest but successful automotive components industry.
The plant will surely be positioned squarely towards export market and by the time production commences, the automobile market is expected to be experiencing a post-slump upswing.
This may also be the last chance for the revival of the local automobile industry after in mid 1990s Rover set up a joint venture with the Bulgarian Daru Group in Varna, which failed because of a weak market strategy, high prices, and a stronger competitor in the face of Skoda.
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