Thu, Nov 05, 2009 - Page 11 News List

Yulon Motor set to offer Pandas to local motorists

BEHIND THE PANDA Yulon is following up with a new brand, Tobe, and is hoping to make inroads in China’s market with development of lithium battery technology

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yulon Motor Co (裕隆汽車) is likely to introduce Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd’s (吉利汽車) Panda cars to local consumers next month, making it the first Taiwanese automaker to launch Chinese models here, a source said.

An analyst said the deal is a prelude to expanded cooperation between the two companies to tap the electric car market in China.

The Sanyi (三義), Miaoli County-based Yulon is expected to import auto parts from Geely Automobile to produce and distribute smaller vehicles under a new brand, Tobe (酷比), in Taiwan, the source said yesterday.

“Yulon has set up a new company to take charge of this new Tobe brand. My understanding is it will introduce the brand to the public later this month and exhibit the Geely cars next month at a local car fair,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Other local automakers that have expressed interest in introducing Chinese models include Prince Motors Co (太子汽車), which said earlier this year that it planned to introduce models from Chery Automobile Ltd (奇瑞汽車), and Sanyang Industry Co (三陽工業), which is considering the assembly of buses for Xiamen Golden Dragon Van Co (廈門金龍集團).

Yulon has sent a Tobe “m’car” TU1 model to the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Energy Bureau for energy-efficiency tests. Based on bureau data released on Sept. 17, the four-door Tobe model with a 1,342cc engine posted average fuel efficiency of 15.5km per liter.

The Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported yesterday that Yulon planned to introduce the Geely compacts with a price tag of less than NT$400,000 (US$12,300) per unit.

The report, citing unidentified sources, said the two firms planned to collaborate on the development of electric vehicles powered by lithium batteries — if they reach a deal when Geely chairman Li Shufu (李書福) visits Taiwan later this month.

Yulon spokesman Charles Shiau (蕭明輝) was not available to confirm the report yesterday. In May, Shiau told local reporters that Taiwan’s automakers could cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in developing the market there.

“Through cooperation with Geely Automobile, Yulon is hoping to tap the electric car business and gain access to the bigger car market in China,” Angela Chuang (莊慧君), an analyst at Capital Securities Corp (群益證券), said yesterday. “I believe this is a positive development for Taiwanese automakers like Yulon, which are facing dwindling business in the home market.”

But the source said a big market for electric vehicles seemed far-fetched at present unless battery costs can be reduced.

“The electric car market is not likely to really take off without big subsidies from governments on both sides,” the source said.

Yulon makes Nissan Motor Co cars in Taiwan and distributes Renault, Cadillac, Buick and Opel brands, while Geely Automobile is under the Geely Holding Group Co (吉利控股集團), based in Zhejiang.

Shares of Yulon Motor soared 5.07 percent to end at NT$39.40 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday, outperforming a rise of 1.97 percent on the TAIEX.

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