By Liu Hua
MANILA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- "Good morning, Manila!"
That was the first sentence from Wang Juhui, a representative from China-based Lifan Motors, at the launch of the auto brand's first showroom in the Philippines' capital of Metro Manila.
With the young and energetic assistant general manager, there came the LF520 mid-size sedan, a car model exported to more than 50 other countries, including Australia, Germany, Spain, Russia, Vietnam, Iran, Chile and Venezuela.
Dubbing LF520 as a "World Car," Wang said that the engine was designed by the renowned automobile design firm Ricardo Plc. Based in the United Kingdom. And Italian designers were employed by the manufacturer so that the model became top of the line in the looks department.
"We want to keep the design of the car sleek and stylish to appeal to the young at heart. It is loaded with features that will definitely appeal to the adventurous spirit," said William Agcaoili, general manager of Lifan Cars Philippines, the manufacturer's partner in the Philippines.
Lifan Motors, a motorcycle manufacturer-turned car company like Honda, entered the global passenger car industry in March 2007 with the release of the LF520 in Vietnam. In 2008, the company sold over 20,000 units in markets outside China.
Today, it "sailed" to the Philippine archipelago to seek new opportunities. As explained, the Lifan logo means "powerful sailing boat."
Last year, the Philippines posted a 5.6-percent growth of auto sales despite the global financial crisis. The sales reached 124,449 units in 2008, compared to the previous year's 117,903.
"We are bringing the LF520 in the Philippines so that Filipinos can also enjoy our world-class vehicle which is priced more affordably," said Nelson Ong, president of Lifan Cars Philippines.
The price is expected to be set around 500,000 pesos (10,600 U.S. dollars) for the 1.3-litre model.
"We sell the cars at very, very affordable prices," said Agcaoili, when talking about what is the Chinese brand's competitive edge to grab a share in the market dominated by Japanese cars.
Meanwhile, the quality, safety and comfort of the vehicles will not compromised, he added.
Ong believes that his company will enjoy commercial success in the Philippine market.
"We are confident that the entry of Lifan Motors will help revitalize the local domestic industry as it gives car buyers more choices," he said.
Besides the LF520, Lifan plans to introduce three more models to the local market this year, namely, LF320, LF620 and a sports utility vehicle.
"We believe that it will appeal to the young urban professionals and younger car enthusiasts, which comprises a large chunk of buyers in the local market," Agcaoili said.
However, Lifan sets a sales goal of no more than 1,000 units for this year.
"To buy a car is quite a big deal, so many customers will take a wait-and-see attitude, especially when it comes to a new brand," said Wang.
"But the sales volume will go up as Filipino buyers find confidence in our products," said the smiling Chinese businessman.