CHONGQING, China — At first blush, the GS8 seems like a crossover made for Americans.
The hulking China-built seven-seater is luxurious and modern.
What's more, the styling isn't cluttered with the overwrought baubles that blight many Chinese designs. The GS8 looks at once handsome and rugged, even to American eyes.
Its manufacturer, GAC Motor, hopes so. GAC seeks to be the first homegrown automaker to export light vehicles to the U.S., starting as early as late next year. The GS8 is positioned as its leadoff product, and GAC has begun recruiting stateside dealers.
"When GAC was established, internationalization was one of our goals," Li Shao, deputy general manager of parent company Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., said at an industry event here this year. "Chinese brands going global will be a common trend in the future."
Just as Japanese automakers, and then Koreans, tapped into America with wild success, a growing roster of Chinese hopefuls — from bus makers to electric vehicle upstarts — say it is their turn to take a crack at the lucrative U.S.
But now comes some whiplash. A spiraling trade war between China and the U.S. casts new doubt on such overseas ambitions. And landmark policy changes at home mean China's domestic market is no longer the sheltered incubator it once was.
Suddenly, China's would-be world conquerers are playing defense at home and facing a tougher fight overseas. How the battle shakes out could reshape the industry's landscape, not just for China-born challengers but for the international legacy brands they target as rivals.