Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Oddly Named Brilliance Produces Attractive New Sedan


Will Chinese-Built Cars Pose a Real Threat to Mainstream Automakers and If So, When?

What is it with the names of Chinese carmakers and their vehicles? Geely, Chery, and Great Wall Motors are probably more unfamiliar than outright odd, as is smaller player Brilliance Auto. Brilliance (Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd, see www.brillianceauto.com - sold through the "Zhonghua" and "Zunchi" brand names in China - www.zhonghuacar.com) named its stylish new sedan Jinjue, which translates into "Triumphant Horse" or, better yet, "Winning Gold", the latter potentially chosen to pay tribute to high flyer Han Xiaopeng, winner of an Olympic gold medal in the mens freestyle aerials competition, or speedy superstar Meng Wang, multi-medal winner of the womens short-track speed skating event, and Chinas first gold in a Winter Olympics.

The Jinjue, Brilliances second passenger car, could win over North American and even picky European buyers if launched in western markets, on styling alone - the automaker already sells a larger model in Europe having been designed by Giorgetto (Giorgio) Giugiaros ItalDesign. With another link to the Olympics, the new model was designed in Italy by ItalDesigns rival, the world renowned Pininfarina; design house to many Ferrari sports cars and other top-level vehicles.

Another positive on Brilliances side is its strong relationship with BMW, which bodes well for the Jinjues prospective performance. Yes, Brilliance received technical assistance from the Bavarian automaker when developing its Jinjue, thanks to a relationship that has resulted in the BMW Brilliance Automotive Limited division, 49.01 percent owned by BMW (see www.bmw-brilliance.cn) and responsible for building the German automakers 3-Series, 5-Series and 7-Series sedans, plus the Z4 sports car and X5 crossover SUV; no doubt reason enough for the Jinjues designers choosing to pay homage by mimicking the Teutonic brands double-kidney grille. The entire car, grille included, looks closer to a number of previous BMW assets, mind you; some Rover-MG sedans.

The Jinjue, having been built on a shortened version of Brilliances near full-size model, measures 183 inches in length. Like the larger car, the Jinjue uses a total of four Mitsubishi engines, mostly supplied by Shenyang-Mitsubishi, ranging from 1.6- to 2.0-liters in displacement. While small by North American standards, Mitsubishi has an excellent reputation for engineering powerful little engines, which should result in the Jinjue having reasonably strong straight-line performance. If the Jinjue, or any other Brilliance models were sold in North America, the Mitsubishi relationship could spawn a V6-powered version.
Brilliance hopes to increase sales from 17,500 units to a total of 30,000 this year, and believes its new Jinjue will push it over the top. This said Brilliance has been openly critical of the Chinese government, stating in a press release that "the implementation of macro-economic policies and austerity measures in China has resulted in a significant slowdown in growth in domestic demand for automobiles," pointing to a top-down effort by the Chinese authorities to reduce the number of automakers through direct intervention rather than waiting for the markets to take their natural course and, through attrition, thin out Chinas overpopulated assortment of automakers.

Brilliances strategic partnerships with BMW and Mitsubishi should save it from heavy-handed Chinese autocracy, mind you, which makes it a good bet for continued global expansion. And incidentally, BMW, Mitsubishi and Giugiaro arent the only strategic partnerships Brilliance enjoys, having built relationships with Toyota for the development and production of its lineup of passenger vans (www.jinbei.com.cn), and Porsche for engineering and prototype construction of its new sedans, Johnson Controls for seat and interior component manufacturing, FEV for design, engineering and prototype construction of engines, and TRW Automotive to design new safety and airbag systems.

Look for Brilliance to show up at a major North American auto show, just like Chery, through Malcolm Bricklins Visionary Vehicles, and Geely have gone before. No doubt, the stylish Jinjue will get a more favorable response than its rather frumpy Chinese forerunners.
strategic partnerships with BMW and Mitsubishi should save it from heavy-handed Chinese autocracy, mind you, which makes it a good bet for continued global expansion. And incidentally, BMW, Mitsubishi and Giugiaro arent the only strategic partnerships Brilliance enjoys, having built relationships with Toyota for the development and production of its lineup of passenger vans (www.jinbei.com.cn), and Porsche for engineering and prototype construction of its new sedans, Johnson Controls for seat and interior component manufacturing, FEV for design, engineering and prototype construction of engines, and TRW Automotive to design new safety and airbag systems.

Look for Brilliance to show up at a major North American auto show, just like Chery, through Malcolm Bricklins Visionary Vehicles, and Geely have gone before. No doubt, the stylish Jinjue will get a more favorable response than its rather frumpy Chinese forerunners.


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