BEIJING -- Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. is putting brakes on its plan to become the first manufacturer to start selling Chinese-branded cars in the U.S., citing the trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.
GAC Motor, as the company is known, had a goal to sell cars in America in early 2020 but is now postponing that target as tariffs threaten to make the importing of cars from China more expensive. The company cited “the escalation of China-U.S. trade frictions” and distribution “uncertainties” in a statement on Wednesday.
The company announced several years ago it intended to become the first Chinese carmaker to crack the U.S. market, and has been working on product modifications to appeal to American tastes.
At the Detroit auto show in January 2018, GAC said it would begin selling a seven-seat utility, called the GS8, in the U.S. in 2019. Two months later, GAC solicited dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention.
But in October, as trade tensions grew between the U.S. and China, GAC President Yu Jun said the automaker could delay its U.S. plans. At this year’s Detroit show, GAC said it had selected Irvine, Calif., for its U.S. headquarters but wouldn’t begin sales until at least 2020.
Other automakers' plans
Many Chinese automakers have had ambitions to sell cars in the U.S. going back more than a decade, yet none of the plans have come to fruition so far.
As recently as this month, another Chinese automaker, Zotye, was recruiting dealers and sticking with its plan to begin U.S. sales in late 2020.
GAC, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.’s Lynk & CO brand, Great Wall Motor Co. and Zotye Automobile Co. are among Chinese manufacturers that have expressed interest to expand in the U.S., exhibiting in the country’s auto shows and setting up local sales units and r&d operations.
Great Wall, an SUV maker that has been reviewing options for how to build vehicles in the U.S., said it had no immediate comment on whether it is adjusting its plans for America. BYD Co., which makes electric buses in the U.S., said it has no immediate information on whether its business has been impacted by the trade row.
Geely, which has been aiming to start selling Lynk & CO cars in the U.S. next year, is evaluating its plan for North America, a spokesman said.
Automotive News contributed to this report.