Great Wall Motor is the latest Chinese carmaker to look west for expansion into European markets.

Earlier this month BYD reportedly said it was considering establishing a manufacturing plant in Slovakia while SAIC, China’s biggest automaker, plans to start assembling MG sedans at its UK plant by the end of this year.

Great Wall, which sells its Hover SUV in Italy, said it aims to expand into other west European markets within the next three years.

A senior executive told Reuters: “We already have a dealer in Italy. We are in contact with potential partners in other key European countries, such as Germany, France, Britain and Spain. It takes time for us to break into these markets, possibly two to three years.”

Road blocks to entry to the European market for Chinese carmakers have been emissions and safety ratings. Great Wall’s Hover X240 SUV received a four-star rating in a recent crash test conducted by Australia’s ANCAP test authority, the highest ever global recognition for a made-in-China model.

The company launched in Australia last June and aims to more than double its sales to 7,000-8,000 units this year. Sales in Italy are estimated to jump to roughly 6,000 units from 2,700 units a year earlier, the executive said.
Overall vehicle exports of Great Wall, already selling to more than 100 countries and regions, are estimated at 60,000 units this year, up from 350,000 units in 2009, according to company data.

Great Wall eyes Europe