China Tightens Rules For New Automakers. Too Late!

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

If you want to start a business in China, you need a business license. Getting a license to make cars used to be quite hard, but the Chinese government wants to make it harder. China’s industry ministry will hand down standardized rules, which may limit new entrants, Bloomberg reports.

The not yet precisely defined rules don’t sound sinister at first glance. They state that new car companies must meet certain criteria including scale of production and development capacity. They will take effect on January 1, a statement on the ministry website says.

These rules come a little late. China’s problem is not too many new car companies. China’s problem is too many old car companies. Nobody knows for sure how many there are, the accepted number is “more than 100.” In the past, it was mostly regional governments which became enthusiastic when a car company came to their province. A province without a car company is a rarity in China. Car companies often received land at bargain prices and loose loans.

However, China is falling back in the global car race. Too little research si spread out over too many car companies. If keeping up with research into conventional cars is overwhelming China’s carmakers, research into future technologies is simply something they cannot afford.

What China needs is a consolidation, and that is not brought by rules for new carmakers. It is brought by the demise of the unfit.

Auto sales growth in China is slowing, but manufacturers are building for more. Bloomberg figures that “the combined sales targets of China’s largest automakers may exceed total demand by as much as 32 percent by 2015.”

The tightening of the regulations and the much tighter money however will be in the way of new entries – such as Saab. Saab-suitor Pangda is already slowly extricating itself from the mess. According to Chinese stock site , Pangda will continue to negotiate even after the Memorandum of Understanding had timed out on November 15th. However, Pangda’s patience wears thin. Word in China is that Pangda will bow out soon if nothing definitive happens.

Pangda has other problems anyway. A look at the chart shows that its stock lost more than half of its value in one day, and is now slowly deteriorating. With a chart like that, no woder your enthusiasm wanes.

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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  • Advo Advo on Nov 18, 2011

    How much does the car industry reflect how their whole economy operates? Do other areas like property or cement or steel production need consolidation as well, and will it happen to all at once?

  • Niky Niky on Nov 19, 2011

    Cement and steel... at least cement and steel needed for most general purpose construction uses... are mature industries that aren't as research-intensive. Making cars in a global market is like producing cement that gets stronger and lighter every six year years to meet government regulations, yet still maintains the same price in order to maintain sales volume.

    • Xeranar Xeranar on Nov 21, 2011

      That is so amazingly accurate it's almost stupefying... The problem is for the Chinese is that their most lucrative car companies are tied up in deals with western car makers that essentially hand them already established technology for their cars but don't offer any real long-term benefit. The best they can do is reverse engineer the platforms for a slightly-aged equivalent. If their industry went down from "over 100" to say...Five it could start pooling resources to muster advanced plans and leap-frog their western counterparts. The problem though is that the most powerful companies are pleased with their co-op deals and because the Chinese Government has made it clear they want this to continue they are feeding the problem. The second they force the westerners to hand over future tech they're going to bolt and without them they would just be back to illegal imports or substandard vehicles. In other words the Chinese are caught over a barrel and really have few option in the short-term. Long-Term once hybrid technology or full-electric matures they may be able to do a clean break and start independents that can research advancements in body & frame areas.

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  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?