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What They’re Driving In The BRIC Nations

If you’ve ever had a quick brush with international economists, then you may have heard about what’s known as the BRIC nations. BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China, and they’re the up-and-coming force in world markets. Now, when I take a look through the cars reviewed here at Private Fleet, there’s not a whole heap of Chinese, Brazilian, Russian or Indian cars listed there, although China is making its presence Down Under felt with the Great Wall and Chery (OK, a lot of marques with European or US origins probably get bits assembled in China these days, but all the same…). I had to ask myself what people are driving in these countries. Are they driving their own cars or something else?

So, research time…

China, of course, has a list as long as your arm of its own car manufacturers (and that doesn’t count the ones made in China for “European” cars). Some of the Chinese local brands include BYD, Dongfeng Motor, FAW Group, SIAC Motor, Lifan, Chang’an, Geely, Chery, Hafei, JAC, Great Wall and Roewe. SAIC, Chang’an, FAW Group and Dongfeng are known as the “Big Four”. SAIC, incidentally, owns MG, and has its finger in the Skoda, Chevrolet and VW pies, among quite a few others (including other Chinese marques like the Rover-inspired luxury line Roewe).  The rest of the Big Four also seem to have a stake in some of the more familiar names we know: Chang’an has a few joint ventures with Ford and Suzuki; FAW Group is cosying up with Audi and a couple of others like Toyota; Dongfeng has a lot of partners, including French marques Citroën, Renault and Peugeot.  Quite frankly, trying to decipher what’s going on with the Chinese automobile market is simultaneously confusing and enlightening.

But what about the Chinese-exclusive marques – things with badges we don’t recognise on the noses?  The list is massive.  Just a glimpse at the brands at the bottom of the page should give you an idea. Do some of them look like rip-offs of other logos? You betcha!

India also has a couple of unfamiliar names buzzing around the crowded streets of New Delhi and Mumbai.  One that would, however, look familiar to a lot of Aussie drivers is the Maruti. The what?  Well, some of the top sellers in India are the Maruti Alto and Maruti Swift . Yes, Maruti is Suzuki in a sari – the Indian equivalent. It’s kind of like the Holden/Vauxhall/Opel  thing.  Of course, the big name in Indian cars is Tata, with another popular one being Mahindra & Mahindra. Other things on Indian roads are quite familiar: Hyundais and the like.

Brazil has often been the place where marques headquartered in other countries were actually made, and this still goes on. Fiat is one brand that is thought of as Italian but is actually made in Brazil. Brazil churned out heaps of VW Beetles and Kombis, and these were sold throughout Latin America. There is a Brazilian local marque: the Troller, which specialises in off-road vehicles (which makes sense, considering the amount of wild Brazilian back country in the form of the Amazon jungle).

Russia has Lada, of course. The Lada brand may have been the butt of a few jokes here in the West and they weren’t exactly known for their comfort features, but they were tough and sturdy. They were the Eastern Bloc’s “people’s car” and they were no-frills affairs that had to get from A to B in conditions that could range from the arid deserts in the south in all those countries that now end in “istan” to freezing Siberian conditions.  Ladas made it over here and to the rest of the world, but some others stayed at home – unsurprising, given that Russia is currently the largest European market for cars. Other Russian brands include AvtoVAZ (formerly known as just VAZ – and it owns Lada), GAZ (with a lovely gazelle logo) and KAMAZ (makes trucks that have won their class in the Dakar rally). A lot of Russian cars are sold elsewhere in the world. What’s with the AZ bit? Simply, AZ is short for “avtomobilny zavod”, which means “automobile plant” or “motor works”.

Great Wall is here. Chery is here. Lada is here.  My question is: what’s going to be over here next?  Will we see Tatas on Aussie roads?  Or other Chinese marques?   Time will tell, but I won’t be surprised if they do.