Chinese automaker GAC got a lot of love its first time at the NADA Show.
Although the booth for Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. was tucked away in a corner of the expo, a steady stream of visitors showed up to kick the tires of its vehicles and learn more about its recruitment of U.S. dealers for a retail launch next year.
Vehicle doors were open and shut to check for solidity, seats adjusted for comfort and questions asked of the product specialists, who made their case that GAC vehicles are ready for U.S. consumers who demand quality and modern tech.
Dealers told Automotive News they were intrigued by the possibility of getting in on the ground floor of a new brand in the U.S. that had a proven record in its home country.
"We came here just for this car," said Gordon Hunter, general sales manager for Suncoast Motorsports in Sarasota, Fla. "This might be the next Hyundai."
Hunter, who oversees a Volkswagen and Porsche store, was talking specifically about the GS8, a seven-passenger crossover with the boxy, upright shape typical of the segment.
"The NADA Show has surpassed our expectations,” said GAC Motor President Yu Jun. “We have met hundreds of U.S. dealers who have expressed genuine interest in working with us as we launch GAC Motor in the fourth quarter of 2019. This has been a wonderful three days. Congratulations to the show’s organizers. We are very grateful and honored for such privilege."
GAC has said it will launch in the U.S. with just the GS8 to start. The vehicle will receive a more powerful engine, interior improvements and the necessary modifications to meet U.S. regulations, product specialists said.
Hunter said he first saw the GS8 last year at the Paris auto show and has been intrigued. He was also interested in the other GAC vehicles on display in Las Vegas: the GS4 compact crossover, GA4 sedan and GM8 minivan.
GAC President Yu Jun welcomed dozens of interested dealers at an informational gathering Friday night that was closed to the media.
Dealers who attended the event said there are a lot of details to be worked out on how the brand would operate in the U.S., what facility standards would have to be met and how often vehicles would be added to the lineup.
Colleen Robar, a public relations consultant working with GAC, said the NADA event was a first step in forming a relationship between the Chinese automaker and potential retailers, and the company was pleased by the turnout.
GAC has opened a research center in Silicon Valley and will open offices in Detroit and Los Angeles this year. Its target for GS8 sales is late 2019.
Hunter said that even without all the details from GAC, he's ready to go. "We would like to be chosen as a multipoint dealer."