Arriving at the Abu Dhabi motor show armed with a great sense of optimism and three compact SUVs was the Zheijang Jonway Automobile Company. Better known simply as Jonway, with a simple "J" logo, this Chinese brand has been producing its small SUVs since May 2003. The company employs 600 people, is based in the port city of Jiangtiao in eastern China and has the capacity to produce 30,000 cars per year.
At the Jonway stand, tucked away near Higer Off Road Motors, a fellow Chinese company that manufactures buses, Amanda Cheng, the brand's international trade manager, showed off the three cars on show. "We are looking for a dealer here [in the UAE]; we cannot sell any cars here without a dealer. That is the big reason why we are here," she says.
"We sell 3,000 units a year in the domestic market and in North Africa, other parts of Asia, Germany and Italy we have agents there."
Jonway's cars have just received the certificate to confirm that all GCC specs are met."Now we have the GCC certificate, we are looking to sell here, maybe Saudi, but anywhere in the GCC," says Cheng. "And we are looking to release several new models in 2011."
Like many Chinese cars, the Jonway SUVs look a little like something else - the SUVs on display look a little like a Toyota Rav4 and a little like a Daihatsu Terios. The base model has the rather aeronautical name of A380 and it is sold in three-door and five-door body types. In Abu Dhabi, the petrol engine versions were on show and the A380 has the option of a four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual.
"The manual sells better in China because the price of gasoline is high," says Cheng. "But I think for here, the automatic is better."
The interior of the A380 is mostly vinyl and hard plastic with brushed metal panels on the doors and dashboard, a nod to the more up-to-date trends in car interiors.
Both the three- and five-door models come with a 1.8L, four-cylinder petrol engine made by Mitsubishi and, ideally for the GCC, a sunroof. The vehicles also benefit from ABS brakes, supplied by Mando, a South Korean company that also supplies Hyundai.
Jonway decided not to show off the electric version of the A380 in Abu Dhabi. In co-operation with ZAP, a US company, the brand has produced six electric vehicles including SUVs, an ATV and a scooter.
"For now, the petrol engine is better for the GCC," says Cheng.
Only available with a manual transmission is the slightly bigger and somewhat unmemorably named FD6421, which comes with a 2.0L, four-cylinder engine.
Jonway's presence at the Abu Dhabi motor show is part of the brand's plan to increase its global exposure. In the past year, Jonway has had a presence at the Bologna Auto Show, where it launched the UFO three-door city SUV for the European market, as well as the Cairo International Motor Show, where the A380 was on display.
"We hope next year will be very busy for us, we are growing a little each year," says Cheng.