Des Moines, IA, China's Big Car Export Hub?

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

If it goes according to the plans of two competing car dealers, Des Moines, Iowa, will become the center of the Chinese car export revolution. The Chinese car invasion has been long feared, but so far has not materialized. Two guys in Des Moines are on a Chinese trade mission …

According to the Des Moines Register, Gene Gabus, a “second-generation patriarch of a family that’s dominated Iowa auto sales for years, believes his team may be ready to offer cheap, fuel-efficient Shuanghuan Nobles early next year.” They plan to sell between 20,000 and 25,000 of the depicted Noble G4s in America in 2010. Gabus may also sell Made in India- Mahindra pickups, and possibly Made in China Brilliance cars.

Neighboring Max Holmes, a Hyundai and Chevrolet dealer, has similar plans. He also thinks Gabus has his work cut out for him. Holmes spent four years chasing Chinese cars, so far without success. All that Holmes received was an expensive education: “It takes a long time to get these vehicles certified.” Mum’s the word from which Chinese company Holmes plans to buy the Made in China automobiles.

Gabus has similar certification problems. For instance, he had to make Shuanghuan switch the engine for a Suzuki engine that already had passed U.S. certification.

Gabus, who is a victim of the Chrysler dealer cull, may invite bigger problems: Both Daimler and BMW have painted a big bull’s-eye on his supplier Shuanghuan. Mercedes sued Shuanghuan for copying the Smart fortwo. BMW also sued, claiming that the Shuanghuan CEO is a facsimile of the BMW X5. BMW lost the case in China (not surprisingly) and in Munich (very surprisingly.) Then, Italian importer Martin Motors mounted a counter-attack against Mercedes and sued for €100m in lost sales of the Smart lookalike. Last we heard from Automotive News [sub] was that Daimler is seeking a settlement with Martin Motors. That was January this year, after that, it became eerily quiet. Gabus better make sure that the legal matters are settled once and for all. In a jury trial in the US, both Mercedes and BMW could stand much better chances.

Any Chinese car exports would be more than welcome in the Middle Kingdom. In September, the alleged export powerhouse registered another bid drop in car exports. China exported 30,500 vehicles in September, down 36.74 percent from a year earlier, Gasgoo writes.

From January to August, China exported only 221,100 vehicles, down 57.17 percent from a year earlier.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Geotpf Geotpf on Oct 26, 2009

    I suspect that any Chinese car sold here will not be a copy of an existing Western model, even if that Chinese company sells copies of Western cars in China.

  • Threeer Threeer on Oct 26, 2009

    And I, for one, will make sure I stay about 1000 ft. away from any car imported from China. Quite frankly, I'm growing very tired of coming to TTAC and reading "China this and China that." I've said it before...why in the hell can't we (the USA) get our collective heads out of our asses and, know, actually work to reestablish a lead in the automotive field (heck, for that matter, the world). It's a real shame that we are all but owned by the Chinese as it is. But there are fools born every day, and some of them will actually put money down on cars imported from China, I'm sure...

  • 6-speed Pomodoro I had summer and winter tires for a car years ago. What a pain in the butt. You've permanently got a stack of tires hogging space in the garage and you've got to swap them yourself twice a year, because you can't fit a spare set of tires in a sportscar to pay someone else to swap 'em.I'd rather just put DWS06's on everything. But I haven't had a sportscar in 8 years, so maybe that's a terrible idea.
  • ShitHead It kicked on one time for me when a car abruptly turned into my lane. Worked as advertised. I was already about to lean into the brake as I was into the horn.
  • Theflyersfan I look at that front and I have to believe that BMW and Genesis designers look at that and go "wow...that's a little much." Rest of the car looks really good - they nailed the evolution of the previous design quite well. They didn't have to reinvent the wheel - when people want a Mustang, I don't think they are going to cross-shop because they know what they want.
  • Theflyersfan Winters go on around Halloween and Summers go on in late March or early April. However, there were some very cold mornings right after the summers went on that had me skidding a bit due to no grip! I do enough (ahem) spirited driving on empty hilly/mountain roads to justify a set of sticky rubber, and winters are a must as while there isn't much snow where I am (three dustings of snow this entire winter), I head to areas that get a bit more snow and winter tires turns that light, RWD car into a snow beast!
  • SCE to AUX My B5.5 was terrible, but maybe the bugs have been worked out of this one.