What Are They Buying In Chile?

Chile is south America’s most stable nation, well-ranked for lack of corruption and sustainability.

2015 Lifan 320
2015 Lifan 320

Historically, it was also one of South America’s most Europeanised countries with its track record blown off course by the 1973 coup that ousted Salvador Allende, a coup helped by the US. Pinochet’s dictatorship ended following a plebiscite, and since then it has renormalized. There are 18 million Chilean living in this famously long and tassled country. What do they drive?

Recent economic history and its geography has a bearing on Chile’s automotive preferences. The peso has been weak, driving up the cost of imports. And Chile has no native manufacturers. The last local production facility, GM, closed in July 2008. Since then the Chinese have been aiming their brands towards Chile. Fortune reported: “…nobody is moving faster in Chile than the Chinese. At last count, 14 different brands of Chinese cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles were on sale in Chile – with more expected to arrive by the end of the year.

They are a big hit, especially among younger, less affluent buyers who got their first exposure to Chinese brands buying motorcycles. Starting from scratch in 2005, annual unit sales of Chinese light vehicles sold in Chile reached nearly 3,000 last year, and Michel Pardal, manager of Latin American forecasting for J.D. Power & Associates, expects that number to quadruple in 2008. That would give Chinese carmakers a share of some 5% in just three years of Chile’s 270,000-vehicle market.

2015 Chery Fulwin2: Chery.cl
2015 Chery Fulwin2: Chery.cl

Asia dominates the supply of cars such that 50% of the imports come from South Korea and Japan. The rest come from European automakers with plants in South America. The tariffs on cars are about zero.  Car malls are the main retail outlet for cars rather than individual dealers.

2015 Chery Fulwin 2. I wonder about the torsional rigidity of this car: Chery.cl
2015 Chery Fulwin 2. I wonder about the torsional rigidity of this car: Chery.cl

The bestsellingcars blog has the statistics on what Chileans are buying. The market has shrunk by about 20% since 2013. The annualised sales for 2015 are estimated at about 200,000 units. Chevrolet takes the largest single chunk of those sales reflecting their historical presence in the country but that’s 10% or about 2000 units. Kia and Nissan come next. VW are number 12, BMW is number 19 in the charts, pipped by Great Wall of China. Overall the Chinese brands hold just under 9% of the market.

2015 Citroen Elysee: Citroen.cl
2015 Citroen Elysee: Citroen.cl

What sort of vehicles are being sold? I had a look at Ford’s website and discovered that the main point of interest was that Chileans go for the saloon version of the Fiesta. Citroen sell the Elysee. Great Well sell six SUV, a pick-up and one saloon called the Voleex.

2015 Great Wall Voleex C30: GreatWall.cl
2015 Great Wall Voleex C30: GreatWall.cl

Lifan sell the 320 which is curiously like the Mini. Chery sells five models: a supermini, a hatch, an MPV and some off-roaders. I have picked the Fulwin 2 for further investigation. It’s a 4.2 metre car that looks like a saloon but is actually a hatchback. It has a 1-5 litre petrol engine.

There seems to be a wealth of interesting details to the Chilean car market and a full perusal of the 60 brands on sale there would throw up a lot of nuggets. For the moment, I suggest you brush up your Spanish and remember that .cl is the internet suffix for Chile. In case you are wondering, Lancia do not have a presence in Chile. The new Delta was not sold but the Zeta was.

Note: the text was corrected June 16. It originally read. “In case you are wondering, Lancia do not have a presence in Italy. The new Delta was not sold but the Zeta was”.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “What Are They Buying In Chile?”

  1. That’s what I like about DTW – to just find a totally unexpected and offbeat article that broadens my horizon. Well done!
    Just one remark: in the last two sentences, this should be Chile, not Italy, right?

  2. Yes, well spotted. It should have read Chile. I will correct it.
    About a week ago we had a mass of Chilean visits. I decided to find out what they drove. Since then, no sign of them!

  3. Richard, i’m afraid i am responsible for most of those visits. I was researching the history of the XJ40, as i am in the process of recomissioning a rare manual 4.0, and, well, your site is almost a book on the subject. What do i drive? An old e39 540i.

    Now, on the chinese cars, not all of them are terrible, they are learning, but there are some comically poor ones from the lesser known brands.

    Many thanks for all the great articles!

  4. Roberto, welcome. I’m pleased you found the XJ40 series (and our site) of interest. I have a couple of further articles in the pipeline on the subject of the ’40 before the subject takes a well earned rest. I wouldn’t like to admit the quantity of research I’ve put into this series, but I have appended source material should you wish to delve further. Best of luck with the recommissioning project – another one saved…

  5. Many Thanks Eóin for your excellent work. Your articles have been an inspiration in order to get the car back on the road.

    On the evolution of the Chinese, from what I’ve seen here, they are getting even more blatant in copying. The last time i visited the “car mall” (a rather uninviting place i might add!) i saw clones of: the new generation Mercedes Sprinter van, the first generation Mercedes B-Class (sans sandwich construction, of course), as well as an FWD clone of the BMW x1. In one of the showrooms there was an interesting “redress” of the old Saab 9-5, complete with the classic Saab turbo engine, made by BAIC. This one was not for sale, as they had not bothered to homologate it, i assume for lack of market perspectives.

    There are some success stories however. The SAIC Maxus van appears to be selling quite well,as well as the indigenously designed Foton pick-up with a 2.8 litre Cummins ISF engine. Also, I’ve heard good things from a friend in the business about the long-distance coaches that Youngman builds under Neoplan license.

    The biggest seller of Chinese cars is, err …. GM(!), the Chevrolet Sail (SAIC) was the single best selling model in 2014, the N300 Max microvan (Wuling) being very popular as well.

    Best regards from Santiago,

  6. Thanks very much for that update. It´s great to hear that the good old Cummins diesel is still in service somewhere. What was the BAIC Saab rip-off called? If they wanted to, the Chinese could productionise faithful rip-offs of loads of old, discontinued cars. Imagine the joy if the Saab 900 or Citroen CX were relaunched with minimal alteration. Or the Silver Shadow but costing only €20,000. Do the Chinese copy cars like the Porsche 911 or MX-5, I wonder?

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