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August 5, 2006
China Motor Corp., a Scottsdale-based importer of Chinese-made automobiles, displayed the first of what it hopes will become a mighty fleet of motor vehicles Friday at the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix.

Called the Europa, it is a luxury model made by the Shenyang Brilliance Jinbri Automotive Co. in Shenyang, in the Liaoning province of China. David Shelburg, president of China Motor Corp., plans to import the Europa and other Chinese-made vehicles to the U.S. market, hopefully by the beginning of next year. He’s betting the combination of high quality and low price will make Chinese vehicles the next big sensation in the American market — following in the footsteps of Japanese and Korean producers.

“It (the Europa) has a recommended retail price of $19,999, but it has all the features of a $40,000 to $50,000 car — imported leather seats, navigation system, DVD player,” he said.

Car buyers will have to wait awhile before they can take the Europa for a test drive. The vehicles still need to pass federal environmental and safety tests and be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation before they can be sold here, Shelburg said. He anticipates those regulatory hurdles will be cleared by early next year, when his Chinese-made automobiles should start appearing on U.S. auto lots.

China Motor plans to import a full lineup of vehicles from three Chinese producers ranging from $9,000 compacts to fully equipped sport utility vehicles costing about $26,000, he said.

The automobile industry is well developed in China, ranking as the third largest in the world. More than 20 domestic producers are building cars, and most of the major world automotive companies also manufacture there. Shelburg is confident it won’t take long for Chinese cars to become established here.

“The (U.S.) majors took 40 years to get where they are at now. It took the Japanese 20 years. It took the Koreans 10. It will take the Chinese five,” he predicted. “And the Chinese will be the last.”

Shelburg said he has lined up about 100 dealers across the U.S. to be retail sales outlets. In Arizona, Tempe-based Chapman Automotive Group has the retail distribution rights.

Chapman CEO Eddie Davault said he plans to open three dealerships in the East Valley and several in Nevada to sell Chinese cars. He said they could be part of existing locations or new stand-alone dealerships.

“Value is the bottom line,” he said. “The Japanese did well because they represented value. And the Koreans represented value. I think we have the same issue here. . . . This is something that could really impact the automobile market.” Les Gin, president of Asian Bank of Arizona, was impressed as he examined the Europa on Friday. “If the Chinese keep the quality high like the Japanese, they will do well,” he said. “They have the latest technology, and they can afford to do the best.”
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