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German Auto Brand Revived in China
Economy, Auto

German Auto Brand Revived in China

In most markets, resurrecting a car brand that last built an automobile the year John F. Kennedy became the US president would appear foolhardy. Unless, it seems, you want to sell in China.

Germany’s Borgward Group, the latest aspirant to tackle the world’s biggest auto market, saw its last Isabella coupe roll off a production line in 1961. But with the help of state-owned Chinese truck-maker Beiqi Foton, the revived brand began sales of an SUV last month in Beijing.

Borgward Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Walker is counting on Chinese consumers’ affinity for foreign brands—more than half of new autos sold there last year sported a foreign nameplate—and reverence for German engineering to spur sales, Bloomberg reports. “It’s German DNA, genuine design, long history,” says Walker, a former Daimler executive in Asia who earlier led the Smart brand.

“We position ourselves above Japanese and Koreans, but below or close to Volkswagen” and will target well-educated young families who “would be happy to buy a BMW but couldn’t afford it and wouldn’t buy a cheap brand”.

Borgward traces its roots to 1924 when Carl F.W. Borgward, an engineer, designed and built a motorized carrier cycle called Blitzkarren. By the 1950s, it was the third-largest carmaker in Germany and accounted for 60% of the country’s auto exports. Its best-known model, the Isabella, was introduced in 1954.

The family sports car had a 1,493 cc engine with an output of 60 horsepower. The company was forced into liquidation in 1961 after sales declined in the US.

The new Borgward, revived in 2008 by the founder’s grandson, is building its first model, the BX7 SUV, at a production line in Beiqi Foton’s plant in Beijing. The line has an initial annual capacity of 100,000 vehicles, which can be increased to 360,000 units.

Borgward is still seeking an assembly site in Europe, where it plans to sell plug-in electric versions of the BX7.

 

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