The IM Group plans to import Chinese-made cars into the UK in the next three to four years, according to Peter Kinnaird, the newly appointed managing director of both Subaru (UK) and Isuzu (UK).

"We are now in a good position to add another make to our business operations and in the next three to four years we will become the importer of a Chinese brand of passenger cars in to the UK," Kinnaird said, adding that the company had not yet decided which Chinese company would supply it with vehicles.

Kinnaird said Subaru will boost its UK dealer network to 120 dealerships from 90 within the next 18 months. 90% of current dealers hold both Subaru and Isuzu franchises.

"This year UK sales of Subaru models will be around the 9,250 mark and this will increase to approximately 11,000 units in 2005. Isuzu sales this year will be 2,500 units and this will increase to 4,000 next year.

"We will be taking a more aggressive marketing stance with Subaru to make it a 'front of mind' brand. Motorsport success gives the brand engineering credibility but it does not penetrate outside a certain peer group of potential customers," Kinnaird said.

He added that there were no plans to introduce diesel engines to the UK Subaru line

"I'm not worried about that sector. We have such a unique model proposition, it's a classic, and that platform gives us enough scope for growth. We cannot be all things to all men".

Two recent initiatives are aimed at increasing Subaru sales. Parts prices have recently been slashed by up to 56% and this has increased the number of leasing companies now offering Subaru models to company car owners.

From 1 November Subaru is launching a 24-hour test drive programme.

Kinnaird said: "We expect this initiative to be very popular and if necessary we will allow our dealers to put more demonstration vehicles on their fleet to accommodate the demand".

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