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Mini Econocar from WuHu: Chery QQ

We’ve been keeping ourselves busy even when we’re compelled to stay home since the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was imposed in Metro Manila on March 15, 2020. Aside from reviewing scale model cars, we’ve been sorting, organizing, and arranging our stuff in our residence and our home-office. We realized that we have a lot of stuff that we didn’t know we had, or that we forgot we had.

One of the things we forgot we had in our hoard was a long-forgotten factory-made 1:18 scale model of a Chinese car, the Chery QQ. The die-cast model was a promo car that was given to VIPs, dealer principals, and guests of the company. I recalled that a group of local motoring journalists, including yours truly, was invited by the former Philippine distributor of Chery Automobiles, Iseway Motor, for a tour of the factory in WuHu, Anhui, China in 2008. This miniature QQ and a pewter paperweight were the souvenirs we receiver during the factory visit.

At that time, Chery claims that the QQ is the cheapest production car in the world and that it is the most popular car in China. The factory claims that their total sales consist mostly of the QQ model and markets the car as “a legend in the Chinese history of the automobile” and as “a mini model with the highest cumulative sales in China”. State Motor reported that Chery QQ was listed in the Top Ten Bestsellers from 2008 to 2010 by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

However, the Chery QQ was also the cause of an intellectual property dispute between Chery and General Motors (GM), which claimed that the car was a copy of the Daewoo Matiz / Chevrolet Spark. GM China sued Chery in a Chinese court and indicated that the two vehicles shared remarkably identical body structure, exterior design, interior design and key components. GM China even demonstrated that the doors of the QQ and of the Matiz / Spark are interchangeable. The dispute started a joke that Chinese automotive engineers have to work at Zerox as their first job so they can learn to properly copy other cars.

Daewoo Matiz

Chevrolet Spark

Chery QQ

In the Philippines, the Chery QQ was beginning to gain traction in the local market as an alternative people’s car. With its low price and economical 51-hp 800 cc inline 3-cylinder (or later 52-hp1.1-liter inline-4), it became the fleet vehicle of a large beverage company for their sales force. Unfortunately, the Philippine distributor of Chery Automobiles didn’t properly handle the maintenance and repairs service of the vehicles, including that of their corporate customers, and the brand got a bad reputation in the auto industry, and gave Filipino buyers a negative impression of Chinese-made vehicles.

Chery Automobiles went through several distributors in the Philippines, who found it difficult to revive the brand. The Chery QQ came at a time when Chinese vehicles were just at the onset of improving their build quality. Unfortunately, even the build quality of our miniature QQ was quite poor. The apple-green paint developed bubbles, the sheen of the paint became matte-like, and die-cast pot metal material of the door was so brittle that both front doors developed cracks and bulges around the hinges.

I remembered that I kept the boxed model in storage instead of my display shelf simply because at the time, the Chery QQ was just an insignificant economy car to me. That’s why it got so dusty and ragged after years in storage. Looking back now, it was a shame to leave it unattended because the model car has opening doors, an accurately depicted interior, opening hood with a detailed 1.1-liter engine in the bay, and an opening rear lift gate that exposes the folding parcel shelf and folding rear seat backs.

In 2019, United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI) stepped in to revive the brand and re-launched Chery in November 2019 with their new mini-SUV line-up, including the Tiggo 2, Tiggo 5X, Tiggo 7 and Tiggo 8. UAAGI, which successfully distributed FOTON pick-up trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans, light commercial vehicles (LCVs), trucks and heavy equipment, is confident that they will have the same success with the revitalized Chery brand.

2020 Chery Tiggo 2

2020 Chery Tiggo 5X

2020 Chery Tiggo 7

2020 Chery Tiggo 8

It’s been 12 years since my visit to the WuHu factory of Chery Automobile, and it’s only now that I paid attention to my 1:18 scale Chery QQ die-cast model. To most die-case model collectors, it may be an insignificant model because it is NOT a sports car, a classic car or an attractive car for that matter. Granted, it was a controversial model because of the copyright dispute with GM, but more importantly, the QQ served notice that China was becoming the biggest market in the world, and that the Chinese car industry was set to expand into the world market soon. And just for these reasons, my miniature QQ (and the accompanying pedestal-mounted and bejeweled pewter paperweight) has become a historically significant model car in my stash.

To see other scale model cars and motorcycles that we have previously posted here in the Power Wheels website, please click “The Rack” button on the header bar near the top right of your screen (if you’re using a PC, laptop or tablet), or type “The Rack” on the Search bar (if you’re using a mobile phone). Because the ECQ was extended until the end of May, we can’t leave home to review actual vehicles, Thus, we’ll stick to reviewing the miniature cars in our collection, including some models which not a lot of you may find attractive, like this Chery QQ. But , we hope you’re still enjoying our reviews and are encouraged to stay safe by staying home until the authorities deem it safe to go out. Help flatten the curve of the infection rate by doing your part. Together, we can beat COVID-19!