DETROIT -- While joint ventures in China are steadily boosting exports, traditional Chinese parts makers have been invisible in overseas markets.
Most Chinese-owned suppliers lack the engineering, product design and capital needed to penetrate foreign markets. But some are starting to enter the export market.
And if you are a North American supplier to General Motors or Ford, you may find yourself bidding for business some day against Stanley Zhou.
Zhou, a slender, unassuming man, is the export director for the Shanghai Automotive Industry Co.
Eight years ago, GM partnered with Shanghai Automotive to build an assembly plant in Shanghai. Now, Zhou is trying to deepen the relationship.
His cramped office - nestled on a commercial strip between a Bally's fitness center and an abandoned restaurant in Warren, Mich. - is nothing to brag about. But it's just across the street from GM's worldwide purchasing headquarters.
Zhou predicts Shanghai Automotive's annual exports to North America will total $100 million by 2007, a fivefold increase over last year.
To reassure nervous customers, Zhou can list 10 joint ventures that Shanghai Automotive has formed with prominent foreign suppliers - a list that includes Visteon, GKN, Kolbenschmidt Pierburg, Valeo and others.
And he's beginning to line up customers. Shanghai Automotive sells coil springs to Ford, and leaf springs and interior lighting to GM.
A quick glance around Zhou's office offers a hint of his export strategy. In a tiny showroom, glass display cases are crammed with steering wheels, headlights, radiators, radios, small motors, steel wheels and pistons.
All of these components have a high labor content and little need for costly machinery. These parts typically are made in Mexico - or China.
Zhou says: "Our plan is to supply components that require intensive labor."