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COMMENT: Don't underestimate China's automakers

Jens Dralle

For the third time, Germany -- the self-anointed “automobile nation” -- is making the mistake of underestimating an Asian competitor.

First, German experts scorned cars exported from Japan. Now German automakers follow the Japanese way of building cars.

Next, people sneered at the Koreans. But today Korean cars sell in respectable numbers in Germany.

Now Chinese automakers are being greeted with arrogance in German automotive circles. Admittedly, cars made in China are cheap and equipped only with basic technology.

German automakers and the German media wag their fingers and warn that cars built in China drive erratically and lack safety equipment. They praise to high heaven German cars that are overloaded with high technology.

But Germans overlook the fact that the market for value vehicles is growing steadily. Of course we need new technology to progress. But we also need cars that get you from A to B in a basic way. China’s cars that are heading to Europe do that.

At least some dealers have recognized this development. The Landwind, a Chinese SUV, will soon be on sale in many Opel showrooms in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Maybe German farmers will soon reach their rain-soaked pastures towing a cattle trailer with an SUV from China. Consumers will not notice that their vehicle's technology is not the latest unless Germany’s domestic industry keeps reminding them.

Jens Dralle is a staff reporter for Automobilwoche

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