Future Models - Geely 2011 CE

Geely 2011 CE Mini-me: Geely's Emgrand EC6-RVmini blends Suzuki Swift and Mini Cooper with surprising style.

Mini-me: Geely's Emgrand EC6-RVmini blends Suzuki Swift and Mini Cooper with surprising style.

Australia's pioneering Chinese passenger car brand Geely promises 2012 EV and hybrid

GEELY is most famous for its parent company’s purchase of Sweden’s largest car-maker, Volvo, and last year also released the first – and cheapest - Chinese passenger car in Australia.

Now the burgeoning Chinese company has revealed it intends to start mass production of its first hybrid and all-electric models by the end of next year.

The ambitious electrification plan was revealed to Reuters at this week’s Shanghai motor show, where Geely Automobile Holdings highlighted its latest R&D achievement as an independent Chinese auto-maker by exhibiting no fewer than 37 models, three theme parks and two interactive experience zones.

Although it remains unclear which of them will actually reach production, Geely took the wraps off at least five interesting new models under three sub-brands in Shanghai, including everything from a Mini Cooper-style hatchback to an imposing SUV and a folding hard-top roadster.

Geely again wheeled out its gaudy GS – a near carbon-copy of the Rolls-Royce Phantom – but its most striking new model was the small Emgrand ‘EC6-RVmini’ hatch, which borrows its roofline from Suzuki’s Swift and has similar overall proportions to the Mini hatch.

Despite that the 3.8-metre mini-car, which is powered by a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine that drives through a new dual-clutch automatic transmission and features a fuel-saving idle-stop system, still manages to look convincingly cohesive in its own right.

At least the EC6-RV was more contemporary than the Englon SC7-RV, an even more retro five-door hatch that looks a lot like Nissan’s previous-generation Micra from the rear and a bit like a London cab from the front.

Geely2011 CE center imageLeft, from top: Geely-Emgrand EC6-RVmini, Geely-Gleagle GX6, Geely-Gleagle GS-CC and Geely-Englon SC7-RV.

And then there were three Gleagle-badged vehicles - including the GS-CC, a compact 2+2 coupe-convertible sportscar that looks like a cross between a BMW Z4 and a Lexus SC, and the somewhat underwhelming GC6 mid-size sedan - details of which are also sketchy.

Perhaps the least derivative of the Gleagle trio is the striking GX6 crossover, a five-seat/five-door wagon with chunky lower body cladding, a complicated grille and radical back-swept headlights that make it look different from anything we’ve ever seen from Geely – or any other brand.

Geely came to Australia at the beginning of 2010 with a single model, the light-sized MK sedan, which matched the Proton S16’s benchmark-setting $11,990 drive-away pricetag when it became available only in West Australia – the home state of veteran vehicle importer John Hughes, the man behind Chinese Automotive Distributors (CAD).

Chery – Australia’s third Chinese passenger vehicle brand, imported by Ateco Automotive, the same distributor that brought us the first in 2009, Great Wall Motors – matched that price with its J1 city-car in February.

Great Wall's ute and SUV models are due to be joined by its first passenger car in Australia later this year.

As we’ve reported, Geely plans to release a replacement for the MK – complete with electronic stability control, allowing it to be sold in Victoria – late this year in the form of the stylish five-door 1.3-litre CE hatchback that was revealed in concept form at the 2008 Beijing show and enters production in China this year.

The Geely CE is expected to join the baby of the range, the LC hatch – known in China as the Panda – and the larger, Corolla-sized EC7 sedan and hatch in a network of Geely showrooms across Australia within 2011.

The LC and EC7 are both due to make their local debut at the Melbourne motor show in July before they hit Australian showrooms, but the three-car Geely range will be joined this year in the CAD stable by a yet-to-be named brand of Chinese-made light commercial vehicles and SUVs that will go head-to-head with Great Wall in Australia.

Meantime, Ateco also has its eyes on another unnamed Chinese LCV brand, which is due to be launched in Australia in October.

While the Australian futures of the Emgrand EC6-RV, Englon SC7-RV and Gleagle GS-CC, GC6 and GX6 – let alone Geely’s range of 2012 hybrid and EV models – remains uncertain, it is clear the fledgling Chinese brand has healthy aspirations.

Aided by its top-selling EC7, Geely’s car sales outpaced China’s total industry growth of 9.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 by increasing 14.4 per cent to 117,698 units, following a 33.1 per cent sales surge in March.

Established just 13 years ago and now a top-ten Chinese auto-maker, Geely sold 415,843 vehicles in 2010 (up 27 per cent on 2009), five per cent or 20,555 of which were exports - up six per cent.

It is well on its way to achieving its target of 480,000 sales this year, which at 15 per cent would be slightly higher than the total industry’s slower growth rate projected by China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Apart from jointly acquiring the world’s second largest independent automatic transmission manufacturer, Australia’s Drivetrain Systems International, and Volvo from Ford in 2009, the self-described “dark horse” of China trades profitably, has total assets of more than $5 billion and an annual production capacity of more than 600,000 vehicles with nine Chinese factories and CKD assembly plants in Indonesia and Russia.

Geely’s export volumes exceeded 100,000 vehicles between 2007 and 2010 – five times that of the preceding four-year period – thanks to shipments of the CK, MK, FC and SL-1 models to more than 50 countries.

Geely used the Shanghai show to emphasise its drive for quality and global expansion, with new models like the EC7 and Panda/LC – both of which earned a five-stare C-NCAP safety rating, with the EC7 achieving a class-leading score of 46.8 – designed to make it “a globally competitive brand by 2015”.

Geely 2011 CE Mini-me: Geely's Emgrand EC6-RVmini blends Suzuki Swift and Mini Cooper with surprising style.

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