Houston Community News >> Asia Carmakers Eye Wider Horizons

3/19/2008 GENEVA –– Chinese and Indian carmakers struck a buoyant tone at the Geneva Auto Show Tuesday, fuelled by booming domestic demand but also with a cautious eye on established Western markets.

The optimism of China's BYD and India's Tata comes in marked contrast to the cautious outlook and revised growth forecasts of their European and North American rivals.

BYD is looking to build on its expertise in high-technology batteries to produce sophisticated hybrid and fully electric cars for foreign markets.

"We hope to start selling in Europe in two to three years," marketing manager Paul Lin told AFP.

BYD started life as a battery manufacturer in 1995 with 20 employees, but is now a diversified producer of IT services, cars and fuel technologies employing 120,000 people, and is valued at an estimated 35 billion yuan (5 billion dollars, 3 billion euros).

BYD has grown by an average of 17 percent over the past 13 years, Lin said.

For 2008, the company is aiming to boost its Chinese car sales to 200,000 from 100,000 units, and its overseas sales to 25,000 from 10,000 units, he added.

BYD company is particularly targeting its "dual mode" vehicles at foreign markets, and is taking its time to make sure they meet stringent European safety standards.

"We're trying to improve quality, and trying to make our cars fit the European market," Lin said.

BYD already has an existing network of European production sites for its IT operations and is considering expanding in the long term to produce cars for the European market, he added.

India's Tata conglomerate was another manufacturer from a key developing economy making waves in Geneva, as it unveiled two versions of its no-frills Nano car.

Tata touts the Nano as the world's cheapest car at just 100,000 rupees (2,500 dollars, 1,600 euros), aimed at Indians hoping to trade up from a motorcycle to four wheels.

The Tata Nano -- which looks very similar to Daimler's Smart -- has a small, rear-mounted 624 cc engine. The basic model has no air conditioning, no electric windows and no power steering, although two deluxe versions will be available. 

(Contributed by AFP)