TURIN – Several Chinese automakers have used Italian design houses to develop new vehicles, but Wednesday (June 15) a Chinese carmaker will open its own styling center here.
Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. (JAC) Italian Research and Development Center is considered the first overseas r&d operation for a Chinese carmaker.
“We came to Italy because it is the strongest nation for design and the Turin area has an unparallel automotive design infrastructure,” said Lou Tik, director of the JAC r&d center.
Tik, 27, holds a master’s in automotive design from the Coventry Polytechnic. He will be the only Chinese national working there.
His staff currently includes other two designers, one British and one Turkish-Italian. Tik expects to have 10 designers by year-end.
“We are looking to hire European designers, because the design of future Chinese cars is heavily influenced by Europeans, especially Italians,” Tik said.
JAC is one of the 14 subsidiaries of the Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, which last year built 130,000 vehicles, mainly heavy- and medium-duty trucks and buses, generating 10.8 billion renminbi (E1.07 billion) in revenues.
JAC’s passenger-vehicle production last year was still negligible, just 17,245 Refine minivans, a variant of the Hyundai Starex built under license.
But JAC will introduce late this year an SUV derived from the Hyundai Santa Fe, which it has code-named SRV. Installed capacity in China for the Refine and SRV is 80,000 units a year on two shifts.
JAC plans to introduce three passenger cars in the coming years.
A premium sedan about the size of the Audi A8 will debut next year at the Beijing auto show and production could begin by the end of 2006.
Tik designed the car while in China. It will feature some design clues from the Vision concept car JAC unveiled in late April at Shanghai auto show.
JAC’s Turin r&d center will style the other two passenger cars: an Audi A4-sized sedan and a small hatchback in the VW Polo class.
“At our Italian facility we will just perform two-dimension exterior and interior design, plus surface mathematics,” said Tik, “while the physical styling model and prototype construction will be subcontracted to some of the many specialists you find in the Turin area.”