SAIC Says Attack On America Not Happening

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Talk about bad timing: One day after the elections that were preceded by the time-honored custom of China-bashing ( with a little Japan-bashing mixed in, you never know) China’s largest automaker announced that the long feared attack of the Chinese car on American soil won’t happen anytime soon.

“It’s really clear, in the short term – several years – there is no plan for a car business in North America for SAIC,” said Yi Lu, head of SAIC USA told Reuters. The 39 year old Yi previously was chief of Cadillac in China.

Detroiters had suspicions when SAIC opened a 30,000-square-foot office in Birmingham, Michigan. SAIC says the office is strictly for peaceful purposes, such as purchasing, logistics, technology and engineering.

(Note for number-junkies: SAIC China’s largest automaker? Isn’t that GM, supposedly? Isn’t Volkswagen after that crown? SAIC has joint ventures with GM and Volkswagen, and generously grants the foreigners to claim all Chinese sales as theirs. Then, SAIC claims them again and says: “In 2011, SAIC Motor sold over 4 million vehicles, thus keeping its leadership on the China domestic automotive market.”)

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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5 of 11 comments
  • Blowfish Blowfish on Nov 08, 2012

    i can see something similar to fuhrer's promises. then whether saic can really market their cars ? or they have bought some old speakers call realistics.

  • Volt 230 Volt 230 on Nov 08, 2012

    Ah!! I can sleep better tonight.

  • SilverHawk SilverHawk on Nov 08, 2012

    "several years". I'll buy that. The new MG roadster will probably be shown first in 2014, and they have always stated that the new roadster would lead their entry into the US market. SAIC designers openly admit that their next-gen vehicles will be designed with US tastes in mind. They have had exploratory discussions with major American dealer groups, but there doesn't seem any rush to get started. 2015-2016 has always seemed like the time frame, and Mr Lu's comments don't seem to change that perception. However, now it's likely that they will not be first Chinese brand to enter our market.

    • Ranwhenparked Ranwhenparked on Nov 08, 2012

      This sounds right. If SAIC is going to come to the US, it will doubtlessly be with the MG brand, not Roewe or Shanghai. MG is still *relatively* well known here, and still with *relatively* positive connotations. But, trying to sell sedans like the MG6 or MG3 here would be a non-starter, they can't even move them in the UK where MG was already known as primarily a purveyor of middle-of-the-road sedans and hatches, so they wouldn't stand a chance in the US, where MG was always known as exclusively a sports car brand. SAIC are really in no hurry though. They're making plenty of money selling MGs and Roewes in China and have shown little sign of making any attempt to properly reestablish MG in Britain and Europe beyond a token foothold. They'll get around to designing a proper sports car for Western tastes when they're good and ready, right now they just don't see the need.

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Nov 08, 2012

    "Detroiters had suspicions when SAIC opened a 30,000-square-foot office in Birmingham, Michigan. SAIC says the office is strictly for peaceful purposes, such as purchasing, logistics, technology and engineering." I don't know how many Detroiters had such suspicions. Though I'm sure that some folks don't know about it, people around here are well aware of the presence of foreign based automotive firms here. Many automakers based outside the US, including some that don't sell cars here, have some kind of office or facility in the Detroit area. Tata has an engineering shop here. Hyundai/Kia have a technical center outside of Ypsilanti which itself is not far from Toyota's billion dollar R&D center in Ann Arbor. Even domestic startups like Tesla that aver to do things differently than Detroit does have engineering shops here. Bottom line is that if you are in the car biz you almost necessarily have to have a facility in or near SEMI. Detroit is the global center of the auto industry much as Los Angeles is to films and NYC is to finance. Plenty of Bollywood producers have offices in LA and I'm sure that most major European and Asian banks have offices in NYC. I'm a Detroiter who welcomes such foreign investment. Foreign investment is usually a sign of a country's economic well being.