China is pursuing a novel way of dramatically increasing its global force in automaking: buy a sophisticated engine plant, take it apart, piece by piece, transport it from Brazil and put it back together in their homeland.
The Lifan Group is bidding to buy from DaimlerChrysler and BMW a car engine plant in Brazil, which they feel is far more feasible to go through such an effort, than develop its own technology in China. If successful, China could catapult competitors like South Korea to catch up with Japan, Germany and the United States in the production of fuel-efficient yet comfortable cars on the market, like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
China’s failure to develop its own version of sophisticated, reliable engines has been one of the biggest obstacles facing automakers as they modernize and prepare exports to the United States and Europe, according to analysts and Western auto executives.
Purchase of that technology from overseas would help remove that obstacle and also plant China’s auto industry solidly in a position to produce roomy cars that are also fuel efficient, 30 or more miles per gallon.
Built in southern Brazil in the late 1990’s at a price of $500 million by a 50-50 joint venture of Chrysler and BMW, the Campo Largo factory combines the latest American and German technology to produce the 1.6-litre, 16-valve Tritec engine.