China’s Great Wall Motor is planning to expand sales in Europe to a third country.

Xing Wenlin, general manager of the company’s international trade division, told a Chinese auto trade paper that, in addition to Bulgaria and Italy, where the company now sells the Wingle pickup, Great Wall would add a “northern European [country]”.

He said that this would likely be a difficult and demanding market to prepare the company for its ultimate goal of entering the US market – although this would be  a long process.

Great Wall is China’s largest pickup and SUV maker and the company aims to export some 60,000 vehicles in 2010, the same number achieved in 2008.

Exports fell to 35,000 vehicles in 2009 because of the economic turmoil. Great Wall started exporting its pickups and SUVs in the late 1990s and has since added sedans to its export line. Main markets are the Middle East, Africa, Australia and south east Asia, according to Xing.

In mid-2009 Great Wall completed the certification of four of its models for the EU; the Florid and Coolbear sedans, the Hover SUV and the Wingle pickup. The company plans to start assembling the four vehicles for Europe in Bulgaria in 2011.

Xing said Great Wall is currently selling vehicles in Europe on a trial basis.

“The important thing for us is to learn and gain experience so that we can develop new products that will offer better value for money for European customers.”

He added that the attraction of North America was a unified single market in terms of regulations, consumer preferences and distribution networks.

Two years ago, several domestic Chinese automakers, including Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, China FAW Group and Changan Automobile, planned to build assembly plants in Mexico and to use that market as a springboard to enter the US. But these plans have to date all been shelved.

Xing said Great Wall did not have any plans for Mexico.

Some automakers also sell their ‘North American’ specification models – those designed primarily for the US and Canada – in Mexico.