A man gets in a Geely Atlas automobile at the Belarusian-Chinese closed joint-stock company BelGee plant in Zhodino, Belarus November 18, 2017. (REUTERS PHOTO)
MINSK, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- "My dream to produce a car in Belarus has come true," a delighted Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said as the first made-in-Belarus car rolled off the conveyor belt on Nov. 17.
The Geely Atlas NL3. manufactured by the Chinese-Belarusian joint venture BelGee, is meant for mass production.
"I used to dream, when will we be able to make cars in Belarus?" Lukashenko said at the launch of the new car at BelGee's factory in the Minsk region. "Our friends responded to my request and helped to set up this wonderful factory... With the help of Chinese friends, we have realized our dream of making a domestic car."
Though Belarus is known as a manufacturer of heavy machinery and has produced advanced large trucks, cranes and tractors, it lagged behind when it came to making cars. In the past, it sought to partner with big foreign automakers such as Volkswagen but the plans came to naught.
The breakthrough came in December 2011 when China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Belarus' dump-truck manufacturer BelAZ floated BelGee as a joint venture. With this Geely became the only Chinese company assembling cars in Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) countries.
In March 2015, BelGee started to build a 118-hectare factory between Borisov and the industrial city of Zhodino to assemble cars from completely knocked-down kits. The factory is designed to make 60,000 cars a year when fully operational.
Lukashenko said the launch of the Belarus car is just the beginning.
"You understand that it is not enough to make, it is more important to sell," he said.
The president said he sees great prospects for the new car. A draft decree to stimulate the purchase of BelGee cars at home is in the pipeline.
In the future, BelGee hopes to double its production capacity and sell the China-Belarus cars not just at home but throughout EEU countries.