Japanese automakers built up a large sales volume in North America before they opened their first assembly plants here. Korean companies did likewise. Each carmaker's first plant here was dedicated to its highest-volume nameplate because that vehicle already had a base of customers.
No Chinese automaker has sold a passenger car in North America yet. But China FAW Group Corp., in partnership with Mexico's Salinas Group, has laid the cornerstone for a car factory between Guadalajara and Mexico City. Starting in 2010, the companies plan to build 100,000 cars a year.
The Mexican plant is a reminder: Chinese carmakers have big plans for North America.