SAIC Motor, China’s largest state-owned automotive manufacturer, is canceling its plans to export vehicles into North America. Likely fearful of the current administration’s trade proposals, SAIC is blaming President Donald Trump for its hesitation to enter the Western market.
Of course, the Chinese automaker isn’t ruling anything out entirely. Michael Yang, the executive director of SAIC’s international division, explained at the Shanghai motor show that the company might resume its plans for U.S. expansion once trade tensions ease between the two countries. As the Trump administration hasn’t exactly celebrated the idea of imported goods and foreign manufacturing, it could be a long wait. In the meantime, SAIC Motor will be focusing its efforts on the European market.
Despite President Trump having softened his stance on Chinese trade in the recent months, much of his campaign rhetoric accused the country of unfair trade practices, and he has threatened to implement stiff tariffs on imported products. The current atmosphere isn’t ideal for SAIC — or any Chinese carmaker — to rush headlong into America. “Eventually we aim to have all, but at the moment we are focusing on [China and then Europe],” Yang said. “The reason is the ‘climate change’ after the new presidency.”
The changing of the guard hasn’t kept other automakers from testing the waters, however. According to Bloomberg, Guangzhou Automobile Group is continuing its plan to establish a research center in the United States in order to conduct a preliminary study of the North American market. Yu Jun, the general manager of the company’s Trumpchi subsidiary, announced at the Shanghai show that his company anticipates entering the U.S. no later than 2019.
“Trumpchi’s goal is to become a world-class Chinese brand,” said Yu. “And we would like to make our research, production and sales global.”
That seems overly ambitious.
While Geely has managed to enter the West indirectly via its purchasing of Volvo, and might eventually rollout its Lynk & Co branded vehicles, other Chinese automakers have been spinning their wheels. BYD has been making appearances at American automotive shows for years under a similar premise without making any real headway.
It would seem that corporate partnerships are the best way to ease into the States, and many of those already exist. Guangzhou already has an alliance with Fiat Chrysler and SAIC’s limited partnership with General Motors is the only way it can legally sell Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac models in mainland China. That cooperation is also how the Chinese-built Buick Envision has made its way to Western shores.
It looks as if SAIC has made it into North America already.
[Image: SAIC Motor]