BEIJING, China – Another Chinese automaker is showing vehicles this year at the auto show in Detroit, raising the perennial question about when these companies might sell in the United States. Most experts say that day is still years away.
A look at some of China’s biggest automakers:
— Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp.: State-owned SAIC, China’s biggest domestic automaker, exemplifies the successes and failures of the Communist Party’s efforts to create competitive Chinese auto brands by decree. SAIC manufactures vehicles for General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG under rules that require global automakers to work through state-owned local partners. The popularity of GM and VW, each of which sold more than 1 million vehicles in China last year, has brought SAIC a flood of revenue. But SAIC has struggled to fulfil the ruling party’s orders to develop its own brands that appeal to consumers — its own-brand unit is losing money. “It’s a pity SAIC can’t just stick to making VWs and Chevys,” said Bernstein Research in a report in October.
— Dongfeng Motor Corp.: State-owned Dongfeng is the local assembler for Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen and sells trucks and buses under its own brand. It owns 14 per cent of Peugeot and the two companies pledged to co-operate in technology, research, manufacturing and overseas distribution. Like other state-owned automakers, Dongfeng benefits from government financial support and other favours. Dongfeng has been hurt lately by weakness in sales of Japanese brands as buyers opt for European competitors.
— Geely Holding Co.: One of China’s biggest independent auto brands, Geely burst onto the global stage in 2010 with its $1.8 billion acquisition of Sweden’s Volvo Cars. Geely represents a new generation of industry growth after Beijing had little success trying to use shotgun marriages between global automakers and state companies to create appealing Chinese brands. At home, Geely was known for whimsically named brands including Gleagle and Englon and for uneven quality. Geely and other independents such as Chery Automobile Co. face intense pressure from bigger, richer global rivals that are eroding their market share. In May, the company announced it will focus on marketing a single Geely brand and phase out Gleagle and other names.
— BYD Auto Co.: BYD — short for “Build Your Dreams” — is China’s most advanced developer of electric cars. The company was founded in 2003 by engineer Wang Chuanfu, whose BYD Co. is one of the world’s biggest producers of rechargeable batteries for mobile phones and other products. In 2008, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. paid $230 million for 10 per cent of the parent BYD Co. Last year, BYD Auto opened a U.S. factory in Lancaster, California, to produce electric buses. BYD should be ideally placed to benefit from the Communist Party’s ambitions to create a Chinese electric car industry but consumer interest is lacklustre.
— Great Wall Motors Ltd.: Great Wall became the Chinese industry’s breakout success story in 2013 on the popularity of its SUVs but is struggling with falling sales. The company appointed the auto industry’s first female chief executive, Wang Fengying, in 2003, a decade before Mary Barra became CEO of General Motors Co. Great Wall is one of China’s biggest auto exporters, selling its Haval series of SUVs in Russia, South Africa and other developing markets, plus a few in Italy. But its share of its critical home market is under pressure from foreign and lower-priced Chinese brands. Industry analysts say Great Wall fails to invest enough in developing new technology and models.