By on June 3, 2010

Chinese cars were rumored of having arrived a long time ago here in Brazil. They’ve been talked about for years. Dealerships were rumored to be opening up right and left. Like in other markets, it was a Chinese chimera.  Granted, you could spot a smattering of vans, or maybe a light delivery truck, parked or puttering along here in Brazil, but again, when you took a longer look, more often than not, you’d see that what you thought were the long-rumored Chinese cars was actually a Hyundai or Kia product, mistake as a Chinese. You know, those Asians, they all look alike.

They are here now. By God, I have proof! I swear that when I saw it I was so shocked I took a picture.

Look behind the steel curtain. Can you identify the car on the right? For Brazilians, identifying the car on the left is easy. Maybe it’s a little difficult for our American friends. The one on the left though is a different story. Would our own Bertel Schmitt see it? [There is a magnifying function – ED]

That’s right. It’s Chinese. It’s a Chery. A Chery Cielo, in fact. Nice to meet you. Had never seen you from this butt angle. Think you look alright, contemporary. I see now that Pininfarina’s work on you was not in vain. Sorry I’m so surprised, but you don’t look so Chinese. And you’ve found a nice house, and have a nice garage mate. Who drives you? The house looks like it belongs to a doctor/engineer/lawyer. It’s definitely not some yahoo’s abode. So, what have you got to seduce a supposedly well-informed, not to mention well-heeled, daddy?

Well according to Brazilian enthusiast site bestcars.com.br, first and foremost, it’s price. Here, the Chery Cielo retails for Brazilian R$41,900 (R$1.80=US$1) or US$23,270. That’s the price of top-of-the-line subcompacts (to you Americans) or compacts (for Brazilian and European customers) like Fiat Palios and Sienas, VW Gols and Voyages, Chevy Corsas and Ford Fiestas. Or a little less than compact (again to you Americans, for us Brazilian and to Europeans the following are medium-compact-sized cars) Chevy Astras, Ford Focuses, VW Golfs and Fiat Stilos. Or supposedly premium compacts like Fiat Puntos or VeeDub’s Polo.

In terms of size, the Cielo, lands in right in the middle. The Cielo is bigger than the smaller cars, but not as big as the larger ones. As to style, as mentioned above, the Cielo has a you-can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it Euro vibe. But it’s very subdued. Elements seem to be borrowed from different Euro-brands. Like the VW snout, or the Audi-esque backlights. Inside, the blandness is greater. The radio buttons particularly look and feel like they were taken from a playmobil. Not good, but again, in this market, not that bad either.

On the dynamic front, Brazilian website bestcars.com.br says that there are problems. The car is just too heavy (1,375kg in sedan form) for its 1.6L engine. The engine produces a healthy 119 hp and is made jointly by Chery and the Austrian engineering company AVL. Nonetheless,  not enough for the heft. The Cielo feels slow. Is this evidence of sloppy engineering? Or is that my preconceptions talking? So, I’d imagine performance is not the reason why the car behind the curtain was bought.

The Cielo is not only heavy, it is heavily loaded. Counter-intuitive for what we expect from a supposedly frugal Chinese car. According to Brazilian site webmotors.com.br, there is power steering, power windows, side mirrors, A/C, radio, ABS and some other goodies that much too often must be bought as pricey extras with other competitors.

A similar car comes to mind. The Renault Logan costs about the same in top-of-the-line form. And is similarly equipped. And is bigger inside than the Cielo, and arguably better finished. The Logan performs better as it weighs just 1.040kg, according to vrum.com.br As evidenced by the other car in the garage, the Cielo owner is not Renault-adverse. So why?

That will be the question faced by every potential Chinese car buyer in Brazil. There will be different answers, but as evidenced by this car, the Chinese are not coming here based on price alone. I think what motivated our friend, the first ever Brazilian Chinese/Chery owner I’ve ever seen, is a mix of price, style and content. Whether he’ll see any of his money back come resale time remains to be seen. Whether he’ll get good service during the life of his car is an open question, depending on the long term success of the Chery. One thing must be said: Behind that steel fence lives one courageous guy.

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19 Comments on “The Chinese Have Landed In Brazil! Can They Samba?...”


  • avatar
    SV

    The Cielo (A3 in the Chinese market IIRC) is a pretty sharp-looking car, though I’d say the taillamps are more Ford than Audi.

    The extra weight is probably due to cost-cutting…some Korean cars until recently were heavier than their rivals due to lack of high-strength steal to save money (I remember the first-gen Sedona was at least as heavy as a Grand Caravan despite being a half-size smaller), so I think it’s the same deal here. Personally, I don’t trust Chinese cars and won’t for probably 20 years, but I can see how people might be drawn to the styling and features.

  • avatar
    Monty

    The sign in the window says R$49,900($27,500 US) for the Chery Tiggo. That’s strippo Rav4 and CR-V pricing. Is it that good of a vehicle? I can’t seem to find any reviews on the intertubes; I guess I’ll have to look more thoroughly tomorrow.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      Considering that, going by the pictures that came up on Google, it’s a cloned last-gen RAV4, I’d say you likely get what you pay for. I’d take the strippo genuine RAV4 myself.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, Monty, according to Fipe (www.fipe.com.br) the institute that compiles car prices in Brazil (and all the insurance companies and governments take their data to charge their coverage or taxes), guess what a Honda CR-V costs in Brazil? Or a Toyota RAV4?

      You better sit down.

      The Honda is worth R$86,570.00 and the Toyota goes for R$104,645,00. Or at R$1.8=US$1, the Honda sells for US$48,100 and the Toyota US$58,100. The Chery Tiggo is really aiming at the strippo Ford EcoSport, which is a car shaped like a jeep sitting on an old Fiesta platform that sells for R$49,683 or US$27,600.

      Welcome to the land of giant taxes and mark-ups!

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    As evidenced by the other car in the garage, the Cielo owner is not Renault-adverse. So why?

    Well… given that the Renaults probably have pretty good crash ratings, the Chery could come in handy if you decide you want to commit suicide by driving into a bridge abutment.

    Aside from that, I can’t think of anything.

  • avatar

    Oi Marcello

    In 2007 Here in Mexico FAW made an attempt to sell cheap cars, actually the cheapest you could get in the country, a FAW 1 for close to 60K MXpesos and FAW 5 Sedan for close to 90K MXP.
    The attempt failed miserably, they even promised to build a plant, but never did (a plant for 50K cars with just 5,K units sold in the first year???)
    The real culprit was the lack of quality of the vehicles, the very small dealership network, they had 9 dealers at Elektra’s Furniture stores on 9 states out of 32!
    The car was nothing more than promised, cheap looking with cheap manufacture, small engines etc.
    Now there are 5,000 stranded owners of FAW cheapos without warranty or support, here is a link in spanish…
    http://www.alvolante.info/nacionales/deja-elektra-desamparados-a-5000-propietarios-de-faw/

    The problem with Chery is that it doesn’t look cheap, so the expectations could be much more by the owner.

    Ah Btw the other car on the garage is a Megane or a Scenic isn’t it?
    Best regards

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    I fully expect the chinese to make cars with the taste and feel of excrement. But then again that will fit like a glove with brazilian tastes.

  • avatar

    Stingray, The Koleos has horizontal position lights, it should be a variant of the Scenic, based on the Megane platform, Koleos is wider if i’m not wrong…
    Saludos

    PS Update… I cheated, just saw the image in high res and it is a MEGANE but it looks different to the tourer…

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    $23,000 for a subcompact??!?
    Even if full equipped, that price is very high. At least much higher than I would expect from a Chinese car, where employees are paid $230 per month.

    • 0 avatar

      Taking into consideration the high importation tariff and the traditional high markups Brazilian businessmen can’t live without, not to mention the relatively weak competition, they’ll make a go of it. But will fail. There I said what I really think for Chinese cars in rhis price range. Now, the Tiggo has more of a chance as Brazilians hunger for anything SUV-like, and there’s absolutely no competition save for the EcoSport. All others are imported and much more expensive.

  • avatar

    “That’s why it’s such a mystery why this guy bought a Cielo. As evidenced by his house and other car, he’s not exactly stripped of cash…”

    Oh well, probably it will be a present for his Mom in law…(Sogra) accidents happen you know?
    or he is a masochist…!
    Paying for expensive Renault repairs and lousy Chinese quality.

    The first time I travelled to São Paulo I was shocked by the prices of both, used and new cars.
    My friends there were amazed by the price tag of my then brand new 307, very close to half the Brazilian price.
    Even cars made in the country had prices much higher than prices out of BR, they explained me that the taxes were the culprit on that matter.
    The worst is that many cars in Mexico are Brazilian made and sold with lower prices.

    Saludos!

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