Ford Motor Co. has decided against its plan to launch an electric vehicle joint venture with China’s Zotye Automobile. The American manufacturer confirmed the decision on Thursday, stating that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had made sweeping changes to its policies since the deal was initially agreed to in 2017.
Few specifics were given beyond that and Ford hasn’t indicated the move might suggest a retreat from the one-party socialist republic. Ford recently confirmed its plan to build Chinese versions of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. and maintains numerous joint ventures necessary to continue doing business inside Central Asia.
Over the past decade, regular reports that Chinese automakers were readying a major push into the North American market became commonplace. We started seeing them move out of trade show basements to take up some of the most desirable real estate on the main floor. While some of the product clearly wasn’t yet up to snuff, one could imagine budget-focused products flooding the U.S. and Canada after a few years of polish. However, the last time that seemed like a likely scenario was 2018.
Chinese brands are still trying to break into the untapped North American market; some even have physical office space set up within the United States. However, Sino-American relations have soured dramatically over the past few years, and new financial hurdles have made wrangling a new market extremely difficult.
Guangzhou Automobile Group, better known as GAC Motor, has delayed plans to commence sales of Chinese-branded cars in the United States. Apparently, there’s some kind of trade dispute between the the two countries that influenced the company’s decision.
However, back in 2018, GAC Motor was at the North American International Auto Show telling yours truly that it planned to ship product to the U.S. as early as the following year (as PR reps simultaneously requested we stop commenting on the faux tailpipes we noticed on several models).
Months later, GAC revised its business plan. The entry into the America market would come closer to 2020, it said. Now, the automaker claims the trade war has forced it to postpone things even further. This time, there’s no target.
Following last week’s announcement that the T600 will serve as the tip of Zotye’s spear, probing into North America, parent company HAAH Automotive Holdings dropped hints that the brand might be one of several Chinese nameplates offered in the United States.
Zotye USA emerged in 2018, after HAAH signed a distributorship agreement with Zotye Automobile International Co. with the clear intent to get its vehicles to market in the Western world. But HAAH CEO Duke Hale claims his company has always had loftier ambitions.
At this point, it feels that every Chinese automaker has delivered an unrealistic promise of bringing fresh product into the United States within a couple of years. Last November, Zotye, Ford’s partner in Asia with a penchant for producing copycat models of European cars, announced plans to bring something over in 2020.
The firm now claims that the T600 crossover — which looks in no way like something from Volkswagen Group; certainly not an Audi Q5 or VW Touareg — will be first model in line for a boat trip to America.
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.
It’s no secret that the American buying public shuns four door sedans as if they were an especially virulent leper. Through the first 11 months of this year, the segment is off by over 300,000 units. Almost every car is down, even the spanking-new Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Reuters now reports that three of its sources claim Ford plans to consolidate global production of midsize sedans in 2020. The cars will be built in China and shipped to the United States and Europe.
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