China's automakers aren't ready for the States
- 2012 European Automakers: Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Volkswagen
- 2012 Chrysler-Fiat Future Product
- 2012 Japanese Automakers: Infiniti, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Suzuki
- 2012 Ford Product Plans
- 2012 Korean and Chinese Automakers Future Product
- 2012 European Automakers: Aston Martin, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Rolls-Royce, Smart, Volvo
- 2012 Japanese Automakers Product Plans: Acura, Honda, Lexus, Scion, Toyota
- 2012 GM Product Plans
If you're wondering when Chinese automakers will arrive in the United States with cars and trucks and rock-bottom prices, don't hold your breath.
Right now, China's domestic automakers are playing defense. In their home market, they are losing market share to General Motors and other foreign automakers.
To be sure, several Chinese automakers are exporting vehicles to compensate for lost market share at home. And some are exporting small numbers of vehicles to Europe.
But only one Chinese automaker, Changan Automobile Group, is exporting any vehicles to the United States, and those are being sold under the brand of a U.S. startup.
The startup is Coda Automotive Inc. of Los Angeles.
Coda gets car bodies from a Changan subsidiary and battery packs from Tianjin Lishen Battery Co., then ships them to a plant in Benicia, Calif., for final assembly.
The five-seat Coda EV, which is priced at $38,145, including shipping, went on sale in California this spring. The company has sold a few cars, but it looks as if the vehicle needs to be improved.
Murtaugh: Working with Great Wall.
In April, CEO Phil Murtaugh said Coda will develop an EV with Great Wall Motor Co., to be introduced in 2014.
Also in April, Liu Zhen, chief of Great Wall's market research center, said his company would send a team to study the U.S. market. But he did not disclose a timetable for selling vehicles here.
BYD Co., which first announced its plans to enter the U.S. market three years ago, has proved equally elusive.
BYD, which is partially owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, was supposed to introduce its e6 electric car in California in 2010. It repeatedly postponed the rollout, then told Bloomberg News last October that it would introduce the car in mid-2013.
In the meantime, BYD has tested fleet demand for EVs. The Los Angeles Housing Authority leased 10 plug-in cars from BYD, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority tested an electric bus for a week.
For a while, it looked as if Chinese automakers would penetrate the North American market through Mexico.
In 2009, Changan Auto and Tianjin FAW Xiali Automobile Co. both disclosed plans to build assembly plants there.
Since then, both automakers have shelved their plans. A spokesman for FAW Xiali said his company backed off because of the global economic crisis.
But Lin Huaibin, an analyst for IHS Automotive in Shanghai, told Automotive News China that Chinese automakers would have trouble meeting Mexico's safety and emissions standards, which are tougher than China's.
The bottom line: China's domestic automakers are not ready for the U.S market, and they know it. Over the next five years or so, they will continue to target emerging markets in Asia, South America and Africa.
They will target fast-growing markets such as Russia and Brazil, and they will test their products in mature markets such as Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom. But they aren't ready for the United States yet.
You can reach David Sedgwick at email@example.com.