Wed, Nov 18, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Yulon introduces new Tobe brand vehicle

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A model and two panda mascots introduce Yulon’s new Tobe M’car in Taipei yesterday. The EV, or electric vehicle, is designed based on the 1.3-liter Panda hatchback made by Chinese automaker Geely, and assembled in Taiwan with improved interior and safety features.

PHOTO: KAO CHIA-HO, TAIPEI TIMES

Following the launch of its first own auto brand “Luxgen” (納智捷) in September, Yulon Motor Co (裕隆汽車) yesterday unveiled a second brand — “Tobe” (酷比) — that will target the domestic and export markets.

The nation’s biggest automaker plans to start exporting Tobe cars to Vietnam next month, which will be followed shortly by sales to the Philippines, China and the Middle East, Hsu Kuo-hsing (許國興), president of Yulon Tobe Motor Co (裕隆酷比汽車), told reporters on the sidelines of the launch.

Yulon Tobe was founded with a capital of NT$200 million (US$6.1 million) and is 100 percent owned by Yulon Motor.

Hsu refused to reveal export figures, saying the company was waiting for market feedback after Tobe’s launch.

Tobe cars are a revamped model based on the Panda car of Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd (吉利汽車), a technology partner of Yulon.

Hsu said more than 35 percent of the car parts — including the engine, car seats, gears and windshield — were designed or enhanced in Taiwan to cater to local demand and regulations, and the cars have passed stringent safety tests, allaying some buyers’ concern that they could be purchasing a “made in China” car.

Yulon Tobe and Geely are going to work more closely on exporting Tobe cars, either using the Tobe or Geely brand when marketing them in different markets in the future, Hsu said.

“Major automakers around the world have set up bases in China, and a lot of car components are produced there. It is the trend,” Yulon Tobe chairman Chen Kuo-rong (陳國榮) said.

He said Tobe was the first product of the company’s cooperation with China in terms of technology transfer, adding that Yulon’s strength in electric cars could be applied to Tobe cars.

Taiwanese consumers would see the first Tobe 1,300cc M’ Car (pronounced my-car) hit the road in January, with a price tag of about NT$400,000.

“This is the price range wherein we see no competition at all,” said Chen, adding that university students and young adults would be drawn to its affordability.

The company expects to sell up to 500 M’ Cars per month in Taiwan next year. It also hopes to launch an electric-version when the market for electric cars becomes more mature and gains subsidies from the government, Yulon Tobe said.

Thanks to the commodity tax cut of NT$30,000 imposed by the government to boost car sales this year, Taiwan’s new vehicle sales jumped 49.1 percent year-on-year to 25,829 units last month, statistics from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications showed.

Cumulative sales in the first 10 months of the year rose 9.4 percent to more than 218,000 units, the ministry said.

The tax cut expires on Dec. 31.

“Discontinuing the tax cut next year would impact the industry, and every carmaker has to compete on the same ground,” Yulon Tobe’s marketing executive Steven Lo (羅明德) said.

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