Auto industry observers have been anticipating the arrival of Chinese-made cars in U.S. dealerships for years. China's automakers have been widely expected to follow in the footsteps of the Japanese and Korean companies that have found success in the American market. But we're not sure anyone saw this coming: the first major automaker to sell Chinese-built cars in the U.S. market may be based in...Detroit, Michigan?
Autoblog reports, "A planning document given to lawmakers by General Motors reportedly shows that the Detroit-based automaker plans to ship 17,335 autos from China for sale in the U.S. in 2011."
USA Today adds that this "trickle" will "turn into a flood... It would import 17,335 the first year, tripling that volume to 51,546 in 2014."
What the document did not make clear is what sort of vehicles GM will import from China. Autoblog speculates that the Buick Regal, a recently designed entry-level luxury car sold in the Chinese market, would make a good candidate.
A Chinese Buick would make sense. Fox News points out, "General Motors is currently the best-selling foreign automaker in China, and Buick is number one brand overall, part of the reason that the nameplate was saved during a recent round of cuts that included the elimination of Pontiac. As an example of the growing influence of that marketplace on the company, the interior of the upcoming replacement for the Buick LaCrosse sedan was designed at a GM studio in Shanghai."
USA Today, meanwhile, says "Most likely candidates would be small vehicles similar to the planned Chevy Spark, a minicar that's going to be made by GM in South Korea where it has its Daewoo subsidiary."
The plan, however, could face opposition. USA Today points out, "The automaker is operating on billions of dollars in government loans, and is seeking more. The government's interest is in saving U.S. jobs, both at the automaker and its suppliers. Importing cars from China doesn't exactly further that interest."
The United Auto Workers union is also likely to oppose the move. Autoblog notes, "UAW legislative director Alan Reuther has gone on record saying that GM ‘should not be taking taxpayers' money simply to finance the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.'"
Union opposition might prove no small hurdle. The outlines of a possible GM bankruptcy are not yet clear, but if GM's restructuring resembles that of cross-town rival Chrysler, the union may end up with some ownership share of the company when it emerges from bankruptcy protection. In Chrysler's case, a UAW-controlled health care trust will own 55% of the restructured company, but have no voting rights on the company's board.