Chinese carmakers narrow quality gap with global brands


By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu

SHANGHAI, Oct 31 (Reuters) - China's state-owned GAC Motorscored above average in a closely watched quality survey, ashome-grown brands narrowed the gap with the foreign marques thatdominate the world's biggest car market.

GAC Motor, which sells cars under its own brand Trumpchi,had 97 problems per 100 newly sold vehicles in a surveypublished on Thursday by market-research firm JD Power &Associates.

That was better than the average 119 problems and beatglobal names such as General Motors Co's Buick andChevrolet, Ford, Nissan and Honda.

A lower score indicates higher quality, with a score over100 showing multiple problems per vehicle.

Three other Chinese brands -- Venucia, Roewe and Luxgen, also performed better than the industry average, compared withnone last year when JD Power started ranking domestic brands inthe survey.

Venucia is a brand developed by a Chinese venture of Japan'sNissan Motor Co for the local market, while Roewe is a brandSAIC Motor Corp started with technologies thestate-owned Chinese carmaker purchased from Britain's Rover.

"Chinese domestic brands achieve tremendous improvement invehicle quality in 2013," Mei Songlin, J.D Power's China vicepresident said in a statement.

Chinese automakers including SAIC Motor Corp, GAC Motor andFAW Car Co Ltd have stepped up efforts to developtheir own brands using technologies and skills they have learnedor bought from foreign companies, which can only operate inChina through joint ventures.

But despite these efforts, foreign brands still grabbed thetop spots in the survey - Toyota's Lexus and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz tied for the highestquality, with 52 problems per 100 cars, followed by Subaru, madeby Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, Volkswagen and BMW.

The survey, which was initiated 14 years ago, monitors howcars perform in the first two to six months of ownership byasking randomly selected buyers.

It measures the number of problems, such as design-relatedissues, defects and malfunctions that buyers identify, per 100vehicles.

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