It can't be too much longer until the Chinese buy a big chunk of General Motors and/or Ford.
I know it seems cockamamie. But if you're a Chinese automaker that's hot to sell and build cars in North America, the quickest way to get here is to buy your way into the market.
After all, isn't that what GM and Ford did all over the world?
With Ford's stock trading at a hat size and its market cap in the neighborhood of $13.5 billion, taking a strong minority position in the automaker wouldn't cost too much - that is, if the Class B stock owned by the Ford family doesn't discourage Chinese buyers.
GM's stock price has bounced back a little, but its market cap is about $13 billion. That means a 10 percent stake ought to cost less than $2 billion, assuming that the stock price will appreciate once the Chinese start buying.
There are several Chinese companies that might like to come here eventually, including a couple that already have relationships with U.S. companies. Changan Automotive and Jiangling Motor have joint ventures with Ford in China.
But my first pick is Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. SAIC is big, fast and strong.
SAIC and GM have four joint ventures in China. SAIC is quickly moving into Europe and has gobbled up the productive remnants of MG Rover.
Plus, there's a buzz around town that SAIC is eager to build cars in North America. Maybe the Chinese will just buy a factory or two, the way they bought the old Buick V-6 engine line. Ford and GM do have fallow factories to spare.
There could be some political fallout. But if the Chinese want a piece of GM or Ford, we may not know until they own 5 percent and file a form 13D with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
After all, that's how Kirk Kerkorian did it.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]