China\'s Automakers Are Getting Better At Making Cars
|   Monday, October 01, 2012
The automakers of China are becoming better at producing cars! The auto association of China is forecasting that the exports of Chinese manufactured cars will reach one million units this year, up from 849,500 last year. Some market analysts are even expecting a 50 percent increase to 1.25 million units.

The new Chinese abilities are posing a significant threat to established international car makers.

"This is a warning shot to the established engineers who have told their management time and time and again that this is the minimum cost they can achieve with their existing design and production methodology," says Shiro Nakamura for Autonews, a top Nissan executive and chief designer.
"Now the Chinese are saying they can cut another 30, 40 percent of the cost."

"Perhaps the Chinese achieve their low cost by sacrificing quality standards," he continues. "But in many ways their way also points to 'over quality' or 'waste' we have built into our conventional design process over the years."

Usually takes 4-5 years are needed for big names like General Motors and Toyota to arrive at a new car from zero. Chinese manufacturers now do the same thing in just two and a half years thanks to an abbreviated design process.

Geely Automobile, owner of Sweden's Volvo, looked to CH-Auto in 2005 for help on a project that eventually led to the Panda, which is one of China's most sought-after small cars right now. CH-Auto designed the exterior styling, and was responsible for engineering the underpinnings. The rest was in Geely's hands, according to the 2 companies.

CH-Auto and Geely made a clear move from copying with the Panda's arrival They still took inspiration from, the Aygo, a city car that Toyota produces in the Czech Republic, but they didn't copy it.

Engineers at CH-Auto studied and tested the Aygo in order to collect data on the design, as well as performance. After that, they tried to produce components by adapting the parts made in China to match the desired functions as well as performance. If local parts were hard to come by, they worked with suppliers to create new, simplified parts based on the ones found in the Aygo designs. They worked with the purpose of "not to copy but approximate the Aygo."

The exterior of the car, featuring a Panda eye grill, with the tail lamps shaped like paws, was considered cute. Plus, it coincided in 2008 to with the Beijing Olympics, giving its launch even more symbolism.

Performance numbers are not great, but there is one very appealing thing about the car: few zeros. A new Panda costs around 40,000 yuan (6,400 dollars) in China, and 5,000 euro (7,400 dollars) elsewhere.

One of the top local car makers of China, Geely expects to sell 370,000 units in China with some 90,000 units abroad this year. By 2016, it sees its export volume hit the 300,000, or possibly 400,000, units per year threshold.

Geely Chairman Li Shufu: "My vision is to sell outside China the same number of cars we sell within China."
PHOTO GALLERY
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