Sofia (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Great Wall Motors Company has become the first Chinese carmaker to operate in Europe. Its new plant was opened in the Bulgarian village of Bahovitsa at the cost of € 80 million (US$ 100 million) jointly operated with the Bulgaria's Litex Motors. This "stepping on the European market is our strategy," said Wang Fengying, Great Wall president and CEO.
By making cars in Bulgaria, Great Wall takes advantage of the country's low wages as well as its duty-free status since the Balkan nation is a member of the European Union.
Ms Wang expects the plant to start with an initial production of 2,000 cars a year, with the output gradually rising to 50,000 annually by 2014.
Initially, it will produce cars aimed at the local market, but future targets include Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. The goal is to expand gradually into other European markets.
The number of workers will gradually increase from 120 to 2,000 over the next three years.
The first two models produced in Bulgaria-the Voleex C10 city car and the Steed 5 pickup-will cost € 8,200-€ 12,800 (,565-,500.
Bulgaria and Eastern Europe are becoming a haven for Chinese investors who want to take advantage of their low wages as well as their duty free status.
Various analysts note that European carmakers used to open plants to assemble their cars in China. Now the Chinese have turned the tables. Increasingly, Chinese carmakers are setting their sights on the European and American automobile markets.
Great Wall is China's largest manufacturer of sports-utility vehicles and operates plants in a dozen countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Egypt and Ukraine.