BEIJING -- Chinese automakers are about five years away from matching the quality ratings of cars sold in the United States, says Jamey Power, executive vice president of international operations for J.D. Power and Associates.
"They realize there is a quality gap (compared to cars in the U.S. market now)," says Power. "But they don't know how to close it."
The Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers has partnered with J.D. Power to change that. Jamey Power was here for a one-day seminar co-hosted by the association. Executives from two dozen domestic auto companies attended.
J.D. Power has measured customer satisfaction for vehicles and service in China for six years. "We are trying to help them become aware of what they need to understand to be successful in (western) markets," Power says.
A number of Chinese automakers want to sell cars in the United States. The largest, Chery Automobile Co., originally said it wanted to launch U.S. cars in 2007. But privately, executives say 2009 is more likely.
Zhejiang Geely Automobile Holdings Group aims to start in 2008. Great Wall Motor Co. has not set a date. Nanjing Automobile Group is looking at selling MGs in the United States.
They will rely on U.S. and European suppliers of parts and assembly equipment to meet quality, emission and safety standards.
They already realize they can't compete solely on price in the United States, says Power. They recognize they must compete on what the Chinese call xinjiabi, or value for money.
The current generation of Chinese cars isn't ready for the United States, he says. But the next generation could be.
Chinese automakers know they could harm the perception of all China car brands if they bring a substandard model to the United States, says Power. But he adds: "They don't have to come in with Toyota-like quality. If they come in with the industry average on our surveys, it wouldn't do any harm to their reputation."
You may e-mail Alysha Webb at [email protected]