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By Jin Jing 2007-1-27 -
CHINESE car makers received low ratings in the latest domestic crash tests while their foreign competitors fared much better.

The tests don't bode well for the domestic auto makers' plans to sell their cars abroad, industry analysts said.

The Free Cruiser sedan developed by Geely Holdings Group, which is expected to be among the first batch of models to be sold in the United States market, got only two stars - the lowest rating - in the China New Car Assessment Program, the China Automotive Technology and Research Center said this week.

The official vehicle inspection laboratory gave three stars to the A5 sedan made by Chery Automobile Co ltd and F3 sedan by BYD Automobile Co Ltd. At the other end of the scale, Toyota's Crown premier sedan earned a top five-star rating, and the institute gave four stars to Honda's City and Volkswagen's Sagitar.

The tests were the first for Chinese-made models under the N-CAP program, an independent crash test drafted by Euro-NCAP, which sets standards in Europe.

The national standard, launched last July, rates cars on their ability to withstand front, side and rear-end collisions.

Auto analysts said they aren't surprised at the results and worried about what they mean for sales outside the country.

Limited investment

"It was expected that Chinese price-competitive models would lose ground to foreign competitors because their more limited investments couldn't make their cars as safe as the mature models," said Zhong Shi, an independent auto analyst.

"Domestic car makers are still not well prepared for sales in the overseas markets, and they need to make more effort to improve quality before they launch massive sales."

Chinese car makers including Geely, Chery and Great Wall Motor Group have announced aggressive plans to export their own brands.

But meeting the higher safety and emissions standards in developed nations has proven to be a considerable challenge.

Landwind, an economy-priced sport utility vehicle made by Jiangling Motor Group, had to pass a second crash test before it could enter the European market after failing one in Germany.
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