Boston, MA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 08/03/2012 -- This year (2012) is set to be a critical year for the Bulgarian auto industry, with the entry of Great Wall Motors marking the return of auto manufacturing in the country. From non-existent production in 2011, BMI predicts that 27,000 vehicles will be assembled in Bulgaria in 2012. All will be produced at the Lovech plant, which has a designed capacity of 50,000 units a year, though we do not expect this total to be reached by 2016, rather production is likely to be just shy of 33,000 at 32,618 units. Most of the vehicles produced will be exported and with the beginning of production this year Bulgaria will become a net exporter of new vehicles. Sales of new vehicles are expected to slow in 2012 to 3.5% y-o-y, down from 17.71% in 2011.
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The success of the Great Wall venture in Bulgaria and the wider EU is critical to the future of the Bulgarian auto industry. Should the Lovech plant prove successful, the country may soon be a booming site for Chinese car production. The Bulgarian partners - Litex - has said that the plant is in essence a pilot project to determine if further investment is worthwhile. Over the coming five years the Bulgarians hope that employment at the plan will increase to 1,000 from the current 200 staff employed and that the full EUR300mn earmarked for investment into Lovech is actually allocated. One early indicator of the health of the project is that the plant passed Great Wall's own quality audit at the first inspection.
Since the plan was first hatched in 2009, increasingly close ties have developed between Bulgaria and China. Before even the briefest of judgements can be made on the assembly at Lovech, the Chinese have also apparently agreed to establish a bus manufacturing plant in Bulgaria. While the full details will not, according to the Litex representative in China, be revealed until late 2012 it does appear increasingly certain that some small-scale assembly of buses will take place in Bulgaria, adding a new dimension to the local industry.
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