Zotye Intends to Be 'First' Chinese Brand Sold in the United States

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
zotye intends to be 8216 first chinese brand sold in the united states

Zotye Automobile has expressed its intent to become the first Chinese automaker slinging sport utility vehicles in the United States. While some outlets report that this feat would make it the first, that’s putting the cart before the horse. There are few automakers vying for this honor.

Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) previously outlined its own plan to get its flagship SUV into America by 2019, showing up at the New York International Auto Show last year to promote its exotic wares. While we weren’t overwhelmed by the product, some of which boasted faux exhaust ports and less-than-ambitious interiors, the display proved GAC was a serious automaker and seriously interested in entering the market — which is about all we’re willing to say about Zotye before we see a physical store.

Zotye announced a strategy to begin selling SUVs in the U.S. in 2020 on Tuesday. Ford, which partners with the Chinese firm in Asia, is not said to be part of its Westward expansion. Roughly a year earlier, the pair signed an agreement to jointly produce a “range of stylish and affordable electric vehicles for consumers in China.”

However, this isn’t supposed to come into play in North America. “There is no current plan for Zotye USA to sell EVs in the U.S. market,” explained Zotye spokesman Chris Hosford.

Zotye is setting up a U.S. sales and distribution arm in Lake Forest, California, and plans to sell vehicles through franchised dealers. Considering other Chinese brands (like Lynk & Co) aim to establish a subscription based model using mobile purchasing, it’s interesting hearing that Zotye intends to pursue a more practical alternative. Still, don’t dismiss the subscription model outright. Lynk & Co may not be moving its own models in the U.S., but its corporate sibling, Volvo Cars, is laying the foundation for such shenanigans with its own subscription service.

Presently, Zotye USA is owned by HAAH Automotive Holdings, headed by President and CEO Duke Hale, a longtime executive at several automotive import operations. “I am beyond thrilled to make this announcement, the result of more than four years of discussions and negotiations with the Zotye in China,” Hale said in a statement. “With the agreement, we have begun setting up a franchised dealer network to handle sales and service in America. We’ve had discussions with several major dealers already and will have more to say about that in the months to come.”

The brand plans to announce its first batch of about 20 franchised dealers next month. Hale also said it wouldn’t be beholden to them, suggesting it was open to online purchasing and unique marketing strategies.

Will Zotye be the first Chinese manufacturer selling cars in America? It’s exceedingly difficult to tell at this stage. GAC has already started making inroads with the National Automobile Dealers Association after its appearance at NYIAS 2018. However, last month it announced it probably wouldn’t be ready to tackle the market until 2020.

That’s kind of a tradition at this point. Chinese automakers frequently establish timelines for market entry, then perpetually move the goalposts while refining their battle plan. In their defense, these are uncertain times and trade conditions may not allow for easy access.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, Zotye wants to undercut every other automaker operating within the region. The first model is said to be the T600, a midsize crossover that clearly apes some of Volkswagen Group’s styling and sells for below $14,000 in Asia. The model has historically made use of Mitsubishi’s ancient Orion or Sirius platforms, helping reduce development costs while giving fans of Diamond Star Motors something to talk about.

[Images: Zotye Automobile]

Join the conversation
2 of 61 comments
  • Whatnext Whatnext on Nov 15, 2018

    Nice to see that China's economic might has allowed them to successfully rip off the design of the last generation Touareg.

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Nov 15, 2018

    The Chinese makers have stepped up their game with vehicle manufacturing over the past couple of years. I do believe they realise to sell globally and into mature markets requires vehicles of a high standard. Irrespective of what platform the vehicle sits on it's the perception of value vs cost vs quality that will be the success of the Chinese. In some ways because they are Chinese I'd expect the quality to be far better than the original Korean and Japanese exports. I don't even consider the vehicles that used to come from behind the Iron Curtain competitive.

  • Drnoose Probably just cutting conservative talk radio off at the knees. They can’t beat it, so kill it one way of the other.
  • Teddyc73 Looking forward to this. Hopefully it doesn't succomb to the leftist agenda and only come as an EV. If there is a gasoline version and a decent sized bed I'll consider this to replace my Ram 1500 when the day comes. Please let it be available in colors other than the same boring ones Ram has offered for years.
  • Xidex i haven't even turned the dial to AM since the 90's I think at that time it was only because there is one station i liked was on the AM dial (it is no longer around) Someone had to point to the station otherwise i wouldn't have even scanned the AM dial. I still think the AM dial should be left on radios though, If no one listened to it then there wouldn't be any stations would there.
  • Kwik_Shift I have five AM stations preset, each different from one another in terms of content. Some politics, some day to day, some do it yourselfing or help. Focus is more on local news and events. FM is just about pushing crap music and djs pushing the MSM message for their corporate overlords. FM is about making radio sound exactly the same all over North America. I like ONE FM station that plays different varieties of country music and has an entertaining dj. Overall, to each their own.
  • Kat Laneaux What's the benefits of this as opposed to the Ford or Nissan. Will the mileage be better than the 19 city, 24 hwy? Will it cost less than the average of $60,000? Will it be a hybrid?