Chalk it up to coincidence that a California company called HAAH Automotive Holdings announced it would build Chery’s Exceed SUVs, under a new brand name, from knock-down kits in the U.S., and that Geely will merge with the Volvo brand, weeks after President Trump announced Phase One of a trade deal with China, and just as the Wuhan-based 2019 nCoV—you know it better as coronavirus—expanded as a worldwide health epidemic.
HAAH, Chery, Geely, Volvo, and the nascent Geely North American brand, Lynk & Co., certainly want none of this. They just want to sell cars from the world’s biggest automotive market to the second-biggest automotive market, especially as sales have seriously slipped from China’s peak of 24.72 million in calendar 2017. China’s 2019 passenger car sales totaled 21.44 million last year, off 9.6 percent from 2018, according to statista.com, while U.S. sales in ’19 totaled 17.11 million, off just 1.2 percent from ’18, Automotive News reports, marking the fourth year of 17-plus-million sales here.
The coronavirus potentially could take a bigger toll in both the U.S. and China in 2020, with delayed parts and supplies shipments from China already affecting Hyundai in South Korea, and General Motors in both South Korea and the U.S. Tata Motors warns that Jaguar Land Rover production could come to a stop within two weeks if the supply of Chinese parts remains halted.
The U.S.-China trade war is an even bigger unknown. There was very little detail in President Trump’s Phase One announcement in January, and none of it related to auto sales and production. While the Chinese automakers most aggressive with their Western export programs have delayed their plans as a result of the Trump administration’s trade policies, the potential trade protectionism is one of the rare political positions that unite both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. There is no guarantee that if the Democratic candidate takes the White House next January that importing cars will become any easier for Chinese automakers.
Best-case scenario target date for U.S. import seems to be late 2021 or early 2022. By then, we’ll have a much better notion of our policy toward trade with China, whether President Trump or his Democratic opponent occupies the White House.
This new marque just announced last week immediately takes the lead in the race to become the first Chinese-sourced brand sold in the U.S. and Canada. The parent automaker is Chinese giant Chery Automobile, which also builds cars and SUVs under the Arrizo