Getting Plug-In and China Weary at NAIAS

Posted by: David Kiley on January 14, 2008

I’m as hopeful as anyone that electric plug-in vehicles are on the way. But pardon me if I can’t get excited about the pronouncements of BYD Auto’s plans for the U.S.

Despite the fact that my colleague, David Welch, wrote a piece on BYD’s plug-in plans for China and eventually the U.S. for BusinessWeek this week, and The Wall Street Journal put their BYD story on A1, I can’t help but think, who cares?

Or maybe it’s just that I’m weary of hearing about the Chinese invasion of the U.S. I wrote a story about Malcolm Bricklin’s venture with Chinese automaker Chery to bring Chinese cars to the U.S. That went by the side of the road. Then it was Brilliance that was going to launch in the U.S. I spoke with those people for a story, too. Where are they? Geely is here again at the NAIAS talking about their venture into U.S. The snores in the press gallery were audible.

BYD, Welch argues in my ear, is the fastest-growing car company in China and one of the biggest suppliers of lithium ion batteries in the world. Congratulations. And I once knew the most promising ballerina in Galveston Texas.

Certifying autombiles for sales in the U.S. is no business for fools or pretenders. It’s hard, expensive work. Then you have to line up a roster of well-capitalized, serious dealers. You have to get 1,000 things right before you start selling cars in the U.S. And I’m being conservative. Then you have to win the confidence of a critical mass of buyers around a brand they have never heard of.

Pardon me if I just don’t think any of the Chinese companies I have encountered, or their U.S. distributors, are up to all that any time soon. By 2020 maybe. I can’t get excited about a three year plan that turns into seven, and then probably ten while they learn all the things about ramping up in the U.S. that they thought they knew.

Reader Comments

Noz

January 14, 2008 7:32 PM

For once, perhaps twice, I agree with your thinking. The Chinese have no idea what they are up against in wishing to sell vehicles here. That America is approaching the cusp of becoming a third world country, thanks to the decadess of gross over-abundance of regressive highly damaging legislation/administration (so-called miserably /massively failed social 'programs') of the bleeding Democrats, And I hasten to add that in order to get elected in this land of 'give- aways', the superior party has had to stoop to the same level more than one time. If ever there were an example of the so-called 'falling domino effect', we are it.
Thanks FDR.

Peter Reid

January 17, 2008 9:31 AM

The same thing was said about the Japanese when they tried to seel cars here years ago. The rest they say is history

PRINCE RAY

January 25, 2008 1:09 AM

Apparently, people who think they know what their talking about quickly forget that the chinese recently went to the space station on their first try. The great thinkers need to read revelations in the bible. The chinese are only getting started... they made dynamite.

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