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NEW DELHI: The Dragon's getting ready to sashay down the Indian asphalt ramp all over again. Three of China's leading automobile companies — SAIC (or, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp), Chery Automobile and Foton (shortened for Beiqi Foton Motor Co) — are gearing up for a drive on the Indian roads.

Auto industry sources say officials of two of these three firms had recently visited India as part of an initial groundwork study to ascertain the market potential and explore opportunities for a local tie-up.

These companies are exploring the feasibility of establishing a presence in India — among the fastest growing automobile markets in the world.

While two of the Chinese companies — Chery and SAIC — are likely to target the burgeoning passenger car market in India with compact and mid-sized cars, sources said Foton intends to enter the commercial vehicle and SUV markets.

Chery — which is being wooed by DaimlerChrysler to source sub-compact fuel-efficient cars for US to fend off Japanese rivals — may look at introducing its compact cars, including the Daewoo Matiz lookalike QQ in India.

Chinese firms are emerging as a threat to the Japanese car makers the world over. If the ventures take-off, this would be the first big attempt in nearly five years by the Chinese auto industry to enter India after the misadventures by a dozen-odd two-wheeler firms from China.

"Representatives from two Chinese auto firms — Chery and Foton — visited India recently and held discussions with local players and the industry body, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. India is among the fastest growing auto markets in the world today and is a high interest market for these Chinese firms, which are looking at expanding their overseas presence," a source said.

Though discussions have been initiated, sources said a full-fledged Chinese auto venture is still over a year away. "These were preliminary meetings to check the ground realities and understand local laws," a source said.

This, incidentally, comes at a time when Chinese investors are facing an uphill task in India with the government keeping several investment proposals at bay citing security concerns.
 
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