China's car maker Great Wall Motor Co and Bulgaria's Litex Motors will roll off their first vehicles in the plant in the town of Lovech, Northern Bulgaria, in February 2011.
Great Wall Motor Company, one of China's biggest automotive manufacturers, signed a joint venture (JV) deal with Bulgarian diversified holding company Litex Commerce in the presence of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on October 15 last year.
The plant will have an annual production capacity of 50,000 units and assemble four different models – a sports utility vehicle (SUV), a pickup and two passenger car models, which are expected to be sold in European Union countries.
The total initial investment is around EUR 80 M, potentially reaching EUR 300 M if the project is successful. The cars are expected to be sold under the Great Wall badge, boosting the firm's output from around 400,000 at present.
The project is considered to be nothing short of a coup for Bulgaria, which does not currently produce any passenger vehicles, though it does have a modest but successful automotive components industry.
The plant will surely be positioned squarely towards export market and by the time production commences, the automobile market is expected to be experiencing a post-slump upswing.
This may also be the last chance for the revival of the local automobile industry after in mid 1990s Rover set up a joint venture with the Bulgarian Daru Group in Varna, which failed because of a weak market strategy, high prices, and a stronger competitor in the face of Skoda.
The factory in Varna operated in 1995-1996, and produced a total of 2 200 Rover Maestro cars.