Thursday, May 23, 2013

News: Chinese Automakers Quietly Build a Detroit Presence

Detroit (photo courtesy of Time.com)
The New York Times recently ran a piece detailing the small, but growing, presence of Chinese automakers in Detroit and the surrounding areas. This foothold in the heartland of the American automotive industry is not necessarily a bad thing as it means the potential revitalization of an area that many Americans had already written off. The Chinese automakers, seeking the expertise of long-time Detroit Three engineers to bolster their technical shortcomings, are taking a very different approach to that taken by their Japanese counterparts some four decades ago. Instead of making a big splash, the Chinese are slipping in under the radar hoping to avoid the backlash and ire that the Japanese faced.

The swoopy Hyundai Sonata (photo courtesy of Car and Driver)
In many ways, this was to be expected. China is fast becoming a major market for many automakers and their homegrown car brands have been making tremendous progress towards becoming truly global brands. In many ways, they have grown at such a tremendous rate that it will not be long before their products will be competitive with those of the mainstream brands. We can turn to Hyundai and Kia, two upstart Korean brands that, in recent years, have made a huge splash in the US automotive marketplace with well-designed and well-engineered products shook up the status quo and drove the market forward by leaps and bounds. The Chinese have seen this success and likely want to replicate it, though they are easily a decade or more behind the Koreans at the moment, but gaining fast.

Geely Motors KC Concept (photo courtesy of Carscoops.com)
The long-term view seems to favor the Chinese reaching their goals. They have already begun to improve their engineering efforts to try to meet the fairly strict Euro NCAP crash standards used in European markets. Several concept cars shown at the Shanghai Auto Show exhibited sparks of brilliance; swoopy designs that, while perhaps still a bit derivative, would not look out of place driving on the streets of Paris, London, or even Detroit. While some may think this added competition will be bad for the Detroit Three, all of whom suffered tremendously at the hands of the Europeans and Japanese over the last few decades, the market is no longer the same. As we saw with the recent success experienced by the Koreans, the end result was better cars across the board with all the automakers forced to introduce ever better cars to stay competitive. For consumers, this drives improved quality, greater innovation, and more choices.

So in the end, the quiet entry of the Chinese automakers, parts suppliers, and other industry competitors into Detroit is an unlikely reason to celebrate. The potential for ever better cars is something we should all look forward to and the potential to help revitalize a decaying American city is in itself worth a few cheers.

Click on the link for the original article: Original New York Times article