It is owned by the local government of Wuhu (but is scheduled to be privatized), and sold about 381,000 vehicles in 2007. It is the largest independent Chinese auto manufacturer and one of the fastest growing automakers in the world.
Chery was founded in 1997 to prop up the economy of Wuhu, a region of China that has received little industrial development in 1995. Its first factory used machines and engine technology purchased from Ford Europe for US$25 million. It began auto production in 1999 using a licenced chassis from SEAT's Toledo. The company was an illegitimate company under Chinese law of the time and had to be registered as a "Car Parts Supplier." Thus, the company was not able to obtain a license to sell their cars in all of China. In 2001, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) bought a 20% stake in the company, allowing Chery to use SAIC's national retail sales license. In 2001, Chery began exporting its cars to Syria, becoming China's first car exporter. Chery also received its ISO-9001 certification. In September 2002, Chery received its ISO/TS 16949 certification, the highest certification at the time.
2003 to present
In 2003, Chery founded a research and development organization, and began working with foreign consultant firms to improve its technology and quality. Chery hired a Japanese engineer from Mitsubishi to head Chery's Lean/Six Sigma production systems, which were first applied to their cars in 2003. They adopted DURR Paint Systems in their paint shop in 2004, becoming one of only 5 factories in the world to have this advanced paint system. SAIC sold its stock back to Chery in 2004 due to rising tension between Chery and its other partners General Motors and Volkswagen
In 2005, Chery was upgraded to ISO/TS 16949:2002 production quality, the highest and strictest quality control system in the global auto industry. They also began working with Malcolm Bricklin's company, Visionary Vehicles, hoping to be one of the first Chinese automobiles sold in the United States. The plan was to import five new car lines. Bricklin planned to have 250 dealers in the United States selling 250,000 cars a year by 2007. However, after two delays and various disagreements over finances and car design, the deal broke down.