SHANGHAI -- Great Wall Motor Co., China's largest SUV maker, expects to begin selling SUVs in the United States around 2015, possibly making it the first Chinese automaker to enter the American market in volume, the president of the company says.
The company joins a list of China automakers that have openly targeted the U.S. market only to see the plans scrapped.
Great Wall is also actively exploring whether to build SUVs in the United States.
"Since the United States is far away from China and its import tariffs on vehicles are not particularly high, we would prefer to build the vehicle locally," Wang Fengying told Automotive News China on Sunday at the Shanghai auto show.
However, Great Wall has yet to decide where to build the plant in the United States, she said.
"We started planning to enter the U.S. market two years ago," she said. "We need to study its laws and regulations (on safety and emission) as well as consumer preferences."
Great Wall, one of China's more successful and financially stable automakers, is currently exploring how best to establish a U.S. dealership network and develop marketing plans.
The prospects of Chinese automakers entering the U.S. market has loomed for years, though quality concerns and the enormous cost of entering the market have proved deterrents so far.
The rapid growth of China's auto market has also discouraged domestic automakers from expanding into mature, overseas markets.
To date, the only China-made model sold in North America in volume is the Honda Fit marketed in Canada. BYD has exported 11 electric-powered e6 hatchbacks to the United States as part of a pilot program.
In January 2007, Changfeng said it planned to hire U.S. dealers and begin selling cars in 2008. And in December 2006, DaimlerChrysler AG reached an agreement with Chery Automobile Co. to build a subcompact car in China that would be sold by Chrysler Group in the United States.
Great Wall, headquartered in Baoding of north China's Hebei province, last year exported some 96,500 vehicles, most of which were its Haval-brand SUV models.
Its flagship model is the Haval H6 compact SUV, which features both gasoline and diesel engines.
Great Wall currently operates CKD and SKD plants in Indonesia, Russia, Iran, Egypt, Bulgaria and Ecuador. Russia, Australia and South Africa are its main export markets.
The company is upgrading its Russia CKD factory to a full-scale plant, according to Wang. It is also in talks with the Thai government about building a full-scale production facility in Thailand.
In 2013, Great Wall aims to sell 800,000 vehicles, up from 677,000 vehicles in 2012. It also aims to increase its annual vehicle exports to 130,000 units this year, Wang said.
David Phillips and Bloomberg contributed to this report