Chinese automakers probably won't be much of a factor in Europe until they start producing cars there. Sending cars to Europe from China just won't make much of a dent in the market.
At least that's what Jean-Martin Folz, CEO of French automaker PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, told Automotive News Europe, which, like Automotive News, is published by Crain Communications Inc.
He's probably right. Just look at the experience of Japanese carmakers, which really started to claim significant market share in foreign countries after they started building there. Their plants in Europe and North America are now going great guns.
Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same, isn't it?
Thirty years ago, there was a standard refrain in Detroit: If Japanese automakers want to sell here, they ought to build here.
That was back in the days when Japanese automakers were beginning to bite off larger chunks of the market. It was an opportune time for them as Americans, following the first OPEC oil embargo, were craving just the kind of fuel-efficient vehicles the Japanese were offering.
Big 3 execs assumed the UAW would organize the import brands, eliminating any cost advantage. (It didn't.) They also figured that Japanese carmakers couldn't quickly ramp up the quality of their products. (They did.)
Now Nissan has six plants in North America, Honda has seven and Toyota is about ready to open its eighth. That's not even counting Hyundai, Volkswagen or Mitsubishi, each of which has one.
General Motors and Ford Motor Co. execs have learned the hard way to be careful what they wish for.
So the only real questions I have is: When will the first Chinese factory be built in the United States, and which state will win the sweepstakes?
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]