China-Zimbabwe auto venture unveils top-of-the-range pickup truck

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Photo shows a top-of-the-range pickup truck, the Grand Tiger, lauched by a joint venture of Chinese and Zimbabwean auto companies in Zimbabwe on March 27, 2017. (Xinhua)

HARARE, March 28 (Xinhua) -- A joint venture of Chinese and Zimbabwean auto companies has launched a top-of-the-range pickup truck, the Grand Tiger, in Zimbabwe.

The launch, on Monday, followed the joint venture forged between Beijing Automotive Group Co. Ltd (BAIC Group) and two Zimbabwean companies to form Beiqi Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd.

The local partners are the government owned Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries and automotive and spare parts dealer Astol Motors, who jointly own 49 percent of shares in the joint venture.

Beiqi Zimbabwe will be involved in the importation of whole vehicles, knocked down kits, distribution, services and finance management.

The joint venture is projected to create 5,000 jobs directly and indirectly and generate 1.3 million U.S. dollars in Value Added Tax and other tax revenues in 2017, while future exports will also generate the much needed foreign currency.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping said that Chinese companies had cast a vote of confidence in Zimbabwe's development, and the latest venture was a culmination of agreements signed during President Xi Jinping's visit to Zimbabwe in 2015.

"I believe that the cooperation with BAIC Group will inject new and strength into Willowvale Motor Industries plant and energy bring it into new successes," he said.

The Grand Tiger comes as a 4x2 or 4x4 single or double cab and is equipped with a Toyota technology 2.5l common rail turbo-charge diesel engine which saves fuel through an intelligent electronic control fuel injection system that gives it 100 km per 6 liters.

With a minimum ground clearance of 210 mm coupled with military chassis technology, the truck is suitable for Zimbabwe's rugged terrain and is an addition to various other Chinese models locally available, such as GWM, Chery and Jinbei.

For safety, the truck is equipped with dual airbags, Anti-skid Braking and Electronic Brake-force Distribution systems.

The luxury model is equipped with a 7-inch touch screen, integrated mobile phone interconnection, multimedia player, tire pressure monitoring, navigation and reversing visual images, among other features.

The double cab goes for about between 20,000 U.S. dollars and 32,000 U.S. dollars and compares with common brands in the country such as the Toyota Hilux while goes for more than 37,000 U.S. dollars for a single cab and a minimum 45,000 U.S. dollars for the double cab.

An Isuzu costs a minimum 49,000 U.S. dollars, while Nissan sells for up to 52,000 U.S. dollars.

The passenger car and SUV will be launched in the mid and late 2017 respectively under a three-year plan projected to see sales going up from an initial 500 units to 1,500 per year.

It is also envisaged that the company will start exporting to other southern African countries in 2018.

Guest of honor and Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha said the government would continue to play its facilitatory role by improving the business climate and addressing major constraints affecting the business community in general and the car assembly industry in particular.

He said the government would also want to see Beiqi Zimbabwe moving from semi-knocked down production to completely knocked down production and possibly venture into local production of vehicle components.

"This will fulfill the objectives of the African Union's Agenda 2063, the SADC Industrialization Agenda and Roadmap as well as government's blueprint, the ZimAsset, which places emphasis on the development of value chains," he said.

Beiqi Zimbabwe general manager Wang Hefeng promised technology transfer to Zimbabwe and good value for money.

"We are going to ensure that there are enough spare parts in the country for the vehicles that we are going to sell to you," he said.

He added that the Grand Tiger had been tested across all terrains in the country and had done well.

Founded in 1958, BAIC Group is one of the top four largest automobile enterprises in China and the largest state-owned industrial enterprise group in Beijing with 130,000 employees.

The company has established KD assembly plants and parts bases in over 20 countries and has been listed four years running among Fortune Global Top 500 companies where it ranked 160th in 2016.

Among its products are BAIC Motor, Foton, BAIC Yinxiang, Beijing Hyundai, Beijing Benz, Changhe Suzuki, BFDA, BeiqiPenglong and BAIC International.

In 2016, it sold 2.8 million vehicles and generated an operating revenue of 70 billion U.S. dollars.