A Chinese automaker is turning its attention west, vowing to sell cars to Americans by the fourth quarter of 2019.
GAC Motor on Monday unveiled two models at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit: a concept gull-wing compact electric SUV called the Enverge and a GA4 midsize sedan that will go on sale in China later this year.
Exactly how or when Chinese cars will enter the U.S. market is a puzzle. GAC says it is negotiating with partner Fiat Chrysler about possible distribution of vehicles. The company says it already has two research centers and a design center in the U.S.
Davis Cole, an industry expert and chairman of the AutoHarvest Foundation in Detroit, told VOA that Americans appear ready for Chinese-made cars. He noted that General Motors already sells its China-produced Buick Envision in the United States.
He said that initially the quality of Chinese-made cars was "not up to what most people would expect here ... but every indication is they are becoming of much, much better quality and my guess is that as we look to the future, quality differences will probably disappear."
If the U.S. automakers want to keep their status and edge in the industry, he said, they have no choice but to work "with all these emerging markets so that you're not just looking at a competitor but a partner." As an example, he noted that Buick sells "about three times as many vehicles in China as they sell here. And that tells you we are in a brave new world."
An interesting aside to the tale of Chinese cars on American soil is the name under which GAC markets its vehicles in China — Trumpchi.
"It will be fascinating, particularly with the criticism the president had of China and their vehicles ... that just adds to the drama," Cole said.
Trumpchi is already popular in China. In 2017, GAC sold 500,000 vehicles, up 37 percent from the year before.
The company has said the name has no connection to U.S. President Donald Trump. It has been in use by GAC since 2010.