Last month, we reported that China’s Great Wall received the EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA,) awarded by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) for their Coolbear MPV, which makes the car legal for sale in Europe.
Since this approval is lengthy (takes about a year) and costly (even when administered by the VCA, which is known for bargain basement pricing,) the announcement was taken as an intention of Great Wall to enter the European market. Here they come:
I.M. Group, a UK-based importer and distributor for Subaru, Isuzu and Daihatsu, has signed an agreement with Great Wall, that covers the importation of Great Wall vehicles into Europe, starting next year, Gasgoo reports.
Initially, the small (and poor) Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be targeted as some kind of a test market. From 2011 on, launches in Scandinavia, the UK and Ireland are planned.
On closer inspection, it now turns out that Great Wall had not received one, but a total of four WVTA certifications: For the Florid, Coolbear, Hover 5, and Wingle 4.
Great Wall is not the only manufacturer who has received WVTA. But WVTA is only half of the bargain. To make the vehicle totally legit, the company must survive what is called an “initial assessment,” an intrusive colonoscopy-like procedure, in which foreign inspectors dissect the deepest secrets of a company, from product management to conformity of production, all the way down to how parts of old cars can be re-used and recycled. In other words: You can’t just present a compliant prototype. You must also prove that you are able to produce it in consistent quality. According to a statement by Great Wall, they are the first Chinese car company to successfully complete such an assessment. Without a positive initial assessment, you have spent a lot of time and money for the certification of a car, and you still can’t sell it freely in Europe.
Great Wall is one of the few privately owned Chinese car makers. The I.M. Group maintains an office in Beijing, employing about 40 people. Coincidentally, the Chinese Rep Office of the VCA is just down the hall. I.M. is in Unit 801 of the Manhattan CNT Building in Beijing, the VCA is in Unit 818.