Imported from Uruguay and thus exempt from 35% import duty under the MERCOSUR trade accord, the Chinese Chery Tiggo is a new and very competitively priced entry in the Brazilian compact SUV market.

It will retail for about R$50,000 (US$27,000), 23% less than Ford’s similarly specified (two-litre, front-drive, nicely equipped) locally-made EcoSport.

According to Chery, the Tiggo is its own model (with help from European designers) on a chassis developed in cooperation with Lotus (a 4WD version arrives in January) and an Acteco engine from Austria. The vehicle has passed the Chinese government safety test programme C-NCAP.

The Face minivan arrives in October, also assembled in Uruguay. Official Brazil importer JLJ has priced that at R$30,000. The QQ subcompact plus a mid-size car, in hatch and saloon body styles and still to be named, arrive later.

JLJ is expecting to sell 10,000 units in 2010, for a 0.4% share of the local car, minivan and SUV segment.

By the end of this year, it also plans to offer flexfuel models developed with Brazilian suppliers.

This means the Chinese have been faster than South Korean brands sold locally to adopt the ethanol fuel technology essential for volume sales here (only KIA is expected to have flexfuel vehicles in 2010).

Chery has been in talks about setting up a manufacturing plant in Brazil but nothing definite has yet been announced.

Fernando Calmon