Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Many Alfa Romeo executives and enthusiasts should pay attention to the “VIP LOUNGE show-car” one of the top-six Chinese carmakers has recently unveiled at the Guangzhou Motor Show. The reason is easily said: that show car is a preview of the sport sedan that Stilebertone (see focus story attached) is designing for Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. (GAC). Until recently, GAC has been renowned for its flourishing joint-ventures with Honda and Toyota and the only big state-owned carmaker that has not cars with its own brand so far. Last year GAC built some 510.000 high quality Toyotas and Hondas. However, having obtained the license to also manufacture automobiles cars with its own brand from the Chinese government, GAC are ready to move into the passenger car territory To this aim, last year they have approved a business plan calling for investments reaching 6.8 billion Yuan ($916 million last year). In 2007, the company presented three concept-cars at the Guangzhou Auto Show and said that their first model would be a sedan to be positioned slightly below the limousine level but above the intermediate middle-class sedan. This perfectly matches the description of the Alfa Romeo 166 which production was stopped in Italy, in spring 2007. Not because the car was obsolete but because weak sale did not justify its unprofitable production. Indeed, it has been recently confirmed that, to save time and money the Chinese have been quick to buy from the Fiat Group Automobiles the rights, equipment and tools used for the manufacturing of the Alfa Romeo flagship, the Alfa Romeo 166.GAC TRUMPCHI In China, the construction of a new car plant with annual capacity of some 100,000 units per year is progressing quickly. Subsequently the plant would be expanded to reach a potential capacity of 200,000 cars and 250.000 engines. Now there is a very good chance that the “Chinese Alfa Romeo 166″ named inside as the “VIP Lounge” has the sort of design that will set a trend in China. I have not seen the new GAC sports sedan, just some renderings and pictures. Obviously I am also very eager to discover its style. I have learned from my sources in China that the car looks modern and attractive, even though it is not too progressive and makes more than a concession to the Chinese understanding of a luxury and dynamic sport sedan. As such the “GAC VIP Lounge” is expected to come with the potential of challenging the BMWs and Audis built in China. The new GAC has been engineered in Turin by UTS (contracted by COMAU) which means that its build quality and capability should be at least as good as any European-built sedan and the car can meet the European safety standards. This seems not to be the case with the Chinese engines yet and their ability to pass the European emission tests. Speaking in an earlier interview, Huang Xiangdong, deputy general manager and head of the company’s R&D team said: ”The cars will carry our own powertrains.” They belong to the latest Chinese generation but GAC have plans for export to Europe and the U.S.A. soon. The new GAC is the third public example of a European car redesigned for China, after the Roewe 750 and Roewe 550. Apparently based on Honda bits, this handsome four-door coupe will reportedly hit the road in 2010 as an all-new Chinese branded model from GAC, the company that currently builds the Accord in a joint venture with Honda. It looks way better than the Accord. Companion vehicle to the GAC four door is this very nice coupe-convertible. Again apparently based on Accord bits -- and again way better looking that the original Honda -- it's also scheduled to make its debut in 2010.

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