FUSHUN, China -- Even before the first Chevrolet Trax compact crossover arrived at his dealership last week, Chinese dealer He Sei was inundated with customer calls, he said.
"They wanted to know when it goes on sale," said He, who manages a five-store group with the only showrooms for Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac in this dusty city of 2.2 million people. "The view of the Chinese consumer is that SUVs are sportier, more fashionable and more youthful."
Roughly a decade after the United States, China is going gaga for SUVs. The mantra is more SUVs ASAP, as those vehicles -- including SUVs and crossovers -- rapidly supplant sedans as the most popular segment. The trend bodes well for Detroit-based automakers.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler raked in money during the early 2000s SUV boom in North America. They aim to do it again in China.
At last week's Beijing auto show, GM introduced the Trax and pledged to add 10 SUVs to its seven-nameplate lineup during the next five years. Ford Motor Co. presented a Ford Everest Concept body-on-frame 4x4 and a Lincoln MKX Concept crossover. Production versions of those will soon amplify its four-vehicle SUV lineup.
And on the eve of the show, Chrysler Group said it will resume building Jeeps in China. With partner Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., it will produce three models in the country by the end of next year.
Beijing Jeep Ltd. had been the first foreign-Chinese joint automobile venture, but it changed focus when it was taken by Daimler AG in the DaimlerChrysler divorce.
The shift is rapid, with SUVs eating into mid-sized sedan sales and usurping their role as the latest status symbol.
In 2000, SUVs accounted for 4 percent of the China market, while so-called D-segment sedans, often used to chauffeur senior corporate and government officials, had 47 percent, according to data from Auto Foresight Co. But by last year, SUVs had captured 19 percent, while D-segment vehicles withered to 15 percent.
SUVs will account for 7 million units in China by 2020, more than triple the segment's current size, GM predicts.