IM Group, the UK-based automotive importer and distributor for Subaru, Isuzu and Daihatsu, has announced the signing of an agreement that will see it import vehicles from Chinese auto maker, Great Wall Motor Company, into Europe starting next year.

Initially, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be targeted.  Then, from 2011, launches in Scandinavia, the UK and Ireland are planned.

IM said Great Wall, one of the few privately-owned Chinese car companies, has designed and built all of the European-bound models specifically to meet EU whole-vehicle type approval standards.

"This will ensure that Great Wall models deliver high standards of crash-worthiness, equal to those of modern European and Japanese vehicles."

This is an obvious reference to earlier Chinese importers' models achieving less than stellar results in independent German crash testing.

IM Group has operated in the Chinese market for over 15 years, and currently employs a team of 40 at its Beijing office.

Multi-brand Australian importer Ateco recently added Great Wall to its line, beginning with a pickup truck range. Other international  markets include Algeria, Chile, South Africa (where it has just launched a Toyota Yaris-lookalike compact car) and Syria.

A European import deal had been rumoured.

Great Wall unveiled the Phenom at the Guangzhou auto show earlier this year saying it had been designed to meet European New Car Assessment Program standards and would be exported to Europe.

SOUTH AFRICA: Great Wall launches compact MPV