TBILISI/APRIL 6 (The Bulletin) — Chinese electric car manufacturer Changan will open a factory in Kutaisi, giving the Georgian manufacturing base a boost and highlighting China’s investment ambitions Georgia.
Announcing the deal, Georgian PM Mamuka Bakhtadze said the factory will produce 40,000 cars a year when it opens in 2020, half, crucially, for the European Union.
“This is a great success. Electric cars manufactured in Georgia will be the main export product to the European market from Georgia,” media quoted Mr Bakhtadze as saying. “We will make four models of electric cars, which will be affordable for all citizens of Georgia.”
Changan, which is often described as the largest electric car maker in the world, is setting up in Georgia with Aigroup, a company that specialises in investments in alternative energy projects.
As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has been steadily building up its presence in Georgia. It sees Georgia as a jumping off point to Europe. Last year it launched the MayWay Airlines, a Tbilisi-registered airline that is 100% funded by Chinese state companies. Its main stated ambition is to act as a bridge between China and Europe — much like the new electric car plant.
Georgia, for its part, has been keen to woo Chinese companies and, like its neighbours in the South Caucasus, has hosted several delegations from China over the past few years.
Neither Aigroup nor Changan have commented.
This story was first published in issue 406 of The Bulletin, a weekly newspaper for Central Asia and the South Caucasus.