GAC Group, China’s 6th largest automaker by sales, returned to the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last month after making its first appearance at the annual event two years ago.
GAC displayed three vehicles under its own Trumpchi brand. One of them, the GS4 compact SUV, is the first Chinese production vehicle to ever make a global debut in Detroit.
But none of the vehicles are expected to enter the U.S. market any time soon. “We do not have a timetable when to launch our cars in the U.S. We are here to learn,” Yuan Zhongrong, vice chairman of GAC, told CBU/CAR.
Although a Wall Street Journal article quoted GAC Motor president Wu Song as saying that it plans to enter the U.S. market by the end of 2017 and is already soliciting distributors to help it do so, chances are small that it can achieve that goal, if history is any indication.
It has been nine years since private carmaker Geely became the first Chinese automaker to exhibit at NAIAS. Over that time span, four other Chinese automakers – BYD, Changfeng (now part of GAC), Brilliance and ZX Auto – have showed up in Motown and tried to make inroads into America. BYD is the only one that has had any success so far, opening a factory in Lancaster, California last year to produce electric buses. The rest have all failed. GAC, as the newest member of this bunch, may still be neither the first nor last Chinese automaker to fully enter the U.S.
The Chinese, however, have landed in the U.S. in various other ways.
More Chinese suppliers are now supplying parts and components to the Big Three and other foreign automakers there. SAIC Motor, China’s largest automaker, has established its North America headquarters while Chang’an, the fourth largest, has established a U.S. R&D Center. China Automotive Systems, a leading power steering supplier, has established a North America headquarters in Troy, Michigan. Other suppliers such as CITIC Dicastal (aluminum alloy wheel), Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems (interior trim) and H.A. Automotive Systems (lighting) are all planning to build or expand factories in other parts of Michigan. Fuyao, China’s leading automotive glass maker, is building a plant in the State of Ohio with an investment of $200 million and recently acquired production assets of a PPG Industries affiliate in Illinois.
In the middle of January, Volvo Cars, now owned by Geely, said it plans to export cars made in China to the U.S. Who would have thought nine years ago that Geely’s ambitions to enter the U.S. would be realized through its wholly-owned subsidiary?!
While the Chinese have not yet been able to enter the U.S. market in terms of selling and producing cars in mass quantities, they are coming in one way or another, and fast.