Consumers line up to buy Chinese-Venezuelan cars
Venezuela: Just weeks after the opening of four Chery dealerships in
Venezuela, dozens of people are lining up every day to buy the first
Chinese cars being sold in the Latin American nation. Unlike competing
Japanese and American cars, import preferences granted by the Venezuelan
government mean the Chinese cars are cheaper, which has attracted a
steady stream of interested customers.
"I came to buy here because elsewhere there are no cars and this is
an alternative," stylist Juan Hernandez, 33, told AFP while waiting in
front of the dealership.
The entrance sign is still covered in black plastic, but already
draws attention from passersby on a busy road in Caracas.
The cars are assembled in Venezuela under an agreement with the
Chinese, who President Hugo Chavez considers a major ally. The
manufacturing enterprise is financed jointly by Chery and a Venezuelan
public-private company. Three other Chery dealerships are operating in
other parts of Venezuela. The manufacturer plans eventually to expand to
18 Venezuelan dealerships. Chavez named the car models the Arauca and
Orinoco after two rivers that run through Venezuela.
Until sales of the Chery began, Venezuela suffered a shortage of cars
because of import and exchange controls on other foreign vehicles.
Japanese and American brands like Toyota and Chevrolet operate plants
in Venezuela, but they do not benefit from "exchange preferences" like
the Chinese companies, according to economist Jose Guerra.
"Cadivi (the government agency that oversees foreign exchange)
provides discretionary dollars and encourages Chinese enterprises"
because of the close relations between the Venezuelan and Chinese
governments, he said.
For customers like Hernandez, the previous scarcity of automobiles
meant delays in being able to buy a new car, which led him to lose his
bank credit line for the purchase.
Now he wants to buy an Orinoco for about $30,000, which he says is "a
little cheaper" than other similar models in the expensive Venezuelan
Yury Soto, a 37-year-old civil servant, plans to buy an Arauca, which
is a smaller and simpler model that sells for about $20,000.
"We came to buy here because it is cheaper and it is what we can
afford, thanks to prices that the president arranged," Soto told AFP.
"Two weeks ago I came at six o'clock in the morning, I waited in line
and they gave me a credit form," Soto said.