Affordable quality car

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Rising fuel prices, skyrocketing interest rates and the world financial downturn have meant that countless South Africans have had to scale down on spending.

In comes a Chinese carmaker promising to alleviate people's already strained finances with affordable small-engine cars that stay well within even the thriftiest fuel budget.

While economic turmoil plays havoc with car markets across the world, Biren Zhou, president of Chery International, feels comfortable with launching a new model in South Africa.

He said: "Due to the financial crisis the car market has gone down, but we are very confident of the South African market.

"We have eight plants across the world, and if volumes reach a certain level (50000), we'll build a plant in Africa. South Africa will be the best place for that," he said.

Chery launched its first range of cars for the Chinese market in 2001 and sold 28000 in that year.

Last year it sold more than 380 000 units in that country.

Unlike the ailing manufacturers of the world that have thrived from producing gas-guzzlers, Chery is focused on rolling out ultra-affordable, lightweight cars for the man on the street.

The company teamed up with the McCarthy Group to launch the brand in May last year, and has sold more than 2500 cars to date.

At under R70000 the Chery is one of the cheapest cars on the market, but it won't go unaffected by the desperate climate and the company also expects to increase prices if the rand fails to strengthen.

While the short-lived Chinese brand Geely fizzled out quickly after launching due to poor sales, Chery intends to boost its profile and prove the quality of its cars to gain people's trust. "The quality of our components is the same as that of other manufacturers and we import our plant equipment from countries such as Germany, Japan and Italy to maintain the same standard," Zhou said.