Spoilt for choice ... 50 car mak­ers

NT News - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL GOVER

AUS­TRALIA is head­ing rapidly to­wards a half­cen­tury and the up­com­ing 50 has noth­ing to do with any much-need bat­ting im­prove­ment by the Aus­tralian cricket team.

The of­fi­cial car com­pany count in this coun­try is now at 46 and des­tined to hit 50 around the end of the year.

Chery and Geely of China are al­ready com­mit­ted, McLaren has solid plans for Novem­ber, and Opel also in­tends to land as a stand­alone brand in the fi­nal days of 2011 or first thing in 2012.

Putting four more into show­rooms will take the to­tal to 50, with more to come as ex­tra Chi­nese brands get se­ri­ous about Aus­tralia.

Per­haps Tata will also bring the Nano . . . This boom in brands hits home this week dur­ing in­ter­views with a range of ex­ec­u­tives at the North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show.

Nick Reilly is talk­ing bullishly about the po­ten­tial for Opel as a stand-alone brand, not just a sup­plier to Holden with cars like the As­tra and Zafira.

He be­lieves there are cars to be sold and prof­its avail­able in a coun­try that al­ways seems ready to ac­cept an­other im­mi­grant.

Reilly also con­cedes Aus­tralia will pro­vide valu­able feed­back for Opel’s ex­port plans to a range of other coun­tries.

Toy­ota used Aus­tralia as a test case from the 1960s and now the Korean jug­ger­naut - Hyundai and Kia - is also learn­ing lessons Down Un­der that it will feed back to base.

On the Chi­nese front, Detroit sees BYD — an­other of the coun­try’s ag­gres­sive ex­porters — promis­ing big things for the USA in a move that could also play well in Aus­tralia.

Chery will hit the ground run­ning this year even if Geely is tak­ing a low-key ap­proach by es­tab­lish­ing a beach­head in Western Aus­tralia be­fore ex­pand­ing to the east coast in 2012.

And McLaren? It is likely to sell less than 50 cars in Aus­tralia this year but will make a def­i­nite im­pact as it goes head-to-head with Fer­rari and Lamborghini.

Its MP4-12C coupe is one of the few cars I can­not wait to drive in 2011.

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