By on July 24, 2018

Image: 2017 GAC Trumpchi GS8

Nah, that’s completely false. You know exactly which car buyers would turn up their noses at the prospect of bringing home a brand new Geely or GAC. (Aren’t these brand names inspiring?)

After becoming familiar names in Europe, new tariffs have made the imminent influx of Chinese-branded vehicles into the U.S. less than certain. Suddenly, the 2018 Detroit auto show, with its big display of shiny new GACs (including a luxurious minivan with La-Z-Boy-like rear seats), seems so long ago.

But pretend for a second that the new tariffs don’t exist, and that Chinese automakers are poised to open up American showrooms tomorrow. Who’s likely to consider one? Who isn’t? A recent study will almost certainly not surprise you.
According to a survey of 1,565 American car shoppers conducted by Autolist, those who already own an American vehicle really aren’t that interested in swapping the stars and bars for a red flag. Pick yourself up off the floor, please.

The survey, published by Wards Auto, found that domestic vehicle owners were the least likely to consider a Chinese-brand vehicle. Only 22 percent of respondents said such a vehicle would be in the running. Owners of Korean cars proved the most likely, with 34 percent saying they’d maybe give one a go. That surely has something to do with the massively overhauled reputation of Korean vehicles, which didn’t get off to a great start after entering the U.S. marketplace in the late ’80s. Now, Korean brands dominate the upper ranks of J.D. Power’s initial quality survey.

Owners of Japanese and European brands split these two groups, with 30 percent of the Japanese crowd and 29 percent of the European crowd saying they’d consider a purchase.

Of the overall group of new car shoppers, 35 percent said they would flat-out refuse to buy a vehicle from a Chinese brand, 27 percent said they would consider one, and 38 percent fell into the mushy middle. Unsure, basically. Given China’s reputation for middling quality consumer goods, and with few Americans ever having had personal experience driving (or even sitting in) a Chinese-brand vehicle, it’s surprising the numbers aren’t stacked even further against China.

Opinion surveys are hardly scientific bedrock, and can hardly be counted on as an indicator of potential demand, though the responses do shed light on how a Chinese brand could pick up followers. It’s all about expectations. While nearly half of all respondents (45 percent) who said they would not buy a Chinese car listed quality and safety as their largest worries, a similar-sized group seemed ready to be wooed by rock-bottom prices.

Of those willing to consider a purchase, 40 percent listed price as the most compelling reason to buy a Chinese car. Eighteen percent listed technology as their top season, with safety coming in at 15 percent.

Both Geely (parent company of Volvo and Lotus) and GAC planned to enter the U.S. market in the next couple of years, but the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariff on Chinese auto imports might kibosh that strategy. In retaliation to Trump’s move, China upped its own tariffs on U.S. vehicles to 40 percent.

How quickly things can change.

[Image: GAC]

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52 Comments on “You’ll Never Guess Which Car Shoppers Distrust Chinese Vehicles the Most...”

  • avatar

    I hope you really meant “stars and stripes” and weren’t trolling.

  • avatar

    “Given China’s reputation for middling quality consumer goods, and with few Americans ever having had personal experience driving (or even sitting in) a Chinese-brand vehicle, it’s surprising the numbers aren’t stacked even further against China.”

    Chinese-branded, yes, but cobbled together of a huge % of Chinese-fabricated parts and components, no – see many Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM) vehicles, where not only do many of their vehicles contain a huge plurality of Chinese-fabricated parts and components, but some contain as much as 88% Chinese-fabricated parts, and are even assembled in China and exported to The Unitret Strates for sale at dealerships near a City Wok near you (Bruick Envision, Cadillac CT6 just to name two).

  • avatar

    Can’t be any worse than the junk coming from UAW plants in Detroit.

  • avatar

    I frankly would not consider a Chinese made car unless the crash and real world data showed them to be safe. Way too many tests of Chinese cars folding like beer cans (or mid 90s Ford pickups)

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      China does makes 5 Star safety rated vehicles.

      The ute in this review is safer than the 3 Star safety rated Ford Mustang we get.

  • avatar

    Well this is all kind of moot for the time being.

    Unless the Chinese want to start building factories here to produce those cars.

  • avatar

    But they’ll slobber all over a Buick Invasion.

  • avatar

    “What kind of a name is Todd GAC anyway?”
    “I think it’s Dutch”

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Tariffs aside, they clearly face an uphill battle of perception of poor quality (and a reality from the examples I’ve seen), and they don’t have a cost advantage over automakers already building cars in low cost regions like Mexico. So why would someone buy a Chinese brand car if it cost the same as a vehicle from an established brand?


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is similar to the discussions about Japanese cars around 1970.

    Except the Japanese were far more committed to quality (Deming) than the communist Chinese are, and didn’t have missiles pointed at the United States.

    • 0 avatar

      Japan also got lucky with the timing. Gas prices were insane and shortages were common. US vehicles had their own merits (good V8’s, tough, minimal rust, roomy), but MPG wasn’t one of them. US economy cars weren’t up to snuff (paper thin metal and not very good I4’s) Given the circumstances, it was easier to overlook the Japanese shortcomings for the MPG (and good I4’s).

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Don’t need go that far back. We still have people who would be caught dead in a KIA.

  • avatar

    The front runner (don’t mix with 4runner) for red-flag vehicle will be Bernie Sanders, with Hillary taking passenger seat. And the CNN will redo their whole mobile park, then will go on air and tell that Trump mismanaged the economy and killed American auto industry.

  • avatar

    Of those willing to consider a purchase, 40 percent listed price as the most compelling reason to buy a Chinese car….with safety coming in at 15 percent…..

    So 15% of Americans have zero critical reasoning skills? Sounds about right :)

    Apply the same rules to Chinese automakers that foreign carmakers have to follow in China a-k-a US production with a 50% JV with Trump or one of his kids :)

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    All they have to do is repeat the original Lexus formula for success. That is offer 90% of the target vehicle at 60% of the price – all other things equal. Lexus did this targeting Mercedes, but there are far more targets in the North American market of overpriced CUVs and duded up pickups than Lexus had in 1990.

    • 0 avatar

      In case of Lexus people already were familiar with Toyota quality. Here we’re talking about people familiar with Chinese product low quality + plus bunch of people who will not buy because it says “china”. And they are correct to do so

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    The funniest thing I heard about this was from a Russian guy who said that he, as an owner of a Chinese car, had a hard time reconciling his bearings with the reality where the parts clerk asks, “Do you want a Chinese original or French substitute, Sir?”

  • avatar

    First Japanese, then Koreans and now Chinese. When this is going to end? You can sell only so many brands in USA. And then there are Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines…

  • avatar

    Based on limited exposure on random islands, the Chinese cars I’ve seen look like copies of last generation Toyotas and such.

  • avatar

    Lived in China for a while, not even Chinese buyers want Chinese cars, they’d rather save a bit more and get a Buick.

    Keep an eye on BYD though; they have a range of electric vehicles and commercial vehicles already in production.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Australia having a free auto market gets some Chinese vehicles. I think you’ll find the only vehicles that make it into an advanced economy from China are the better ones.

    They are getting better and are as good as anything out of Korea, US, Thailand.

    They don’t sell well in Australia because …………. they are Chinese. Perception vs reality. They don’t sell that well similar to the US vehicles not selling well outside of the US. They are considered crap, like many commenters on TTAC has indicated with the above comments.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    I would’ve bet money that Chinese-Americans are the most distrustful of these vehicles. The devil you know…

  • avatar

    I remember going to an auto show in the late ’80s and sitting in a “Scimitar Saber”. It was a Chinese-made sports car that an importer was working to start selling. The build quality was sub-par, but it was a promising car (to my seventeen year old eyes). Then car manufacturers were forced to meet OBD requirements (which they secretly pushed for), and the Chinese cars couldn’t meet the standard. A few years later OBDII came out and yet again Chinese cars weren’t technologically advanced enough. Now the Chinese manufacturers own the other car companies and it’s finally going to happen.

    It’s interesting to me that those who are most against Chinese cars are the same people who most stridently claim to be capitalists. It’s more competition. As a consumer, who am I to complain?

  • avatar

    Based on very limited exposure on various islands, the Chinese builds I’ve seen are still copies of the last generation Toyota or Honda. This can change easily, but that Corolla to the left of me in traffic is actually a BYD. The Toyota pickup ahead of me has “Great Walll” on the tailgate.

  • avatar

    I was expecting the tongue-in-cheek answer that the Chinese distrust Chinese auto manufacturers the most.

  • avatar

    Cant say much about their cars, but i will say some of their phones kick total ass. i have an Iphone X and i bought a Oneplus 5T and i truly think the 5T is a much better phone in all but display. i had the Samsung S9 and returned it the next day. The 5T is my daily driver. When you factor in price………….the 5T is $500 and an Iphone X is $1000……5T is a better phone.

  • avatar

    Tell us more about those there tear-ifs. ;) How does one man WIN so hard? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • avatar

    Doesn’t matter if it is a Chinese brand, a European (or other) brand owned by the Chinese (such as Volvo) or a domestic or foreign brand model that happens to be built in China – Americans should not buy them.

    For other consumer goods, it’s difficult to find something not made in China, but for autos, there’s plenty of choice.

    More so than anything else, autos line the pockets of the PRC and with their totalitarian/uber-nationalist regime (not that we haven’t been spinning towards a similar path), they are the biggest economic and military threat to America.

  • avatar

    Never would I consider a Chinese car.

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