Pictured is the Geely Beauty Leopard, a sporty sedan from the first Chinese automaker to display a car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It sells in China for US$15,125 and comes standard with a karaoke player. Geely cars aren’t available for sale in the U.S. yet, and if they ever will be, it won’t be for a couple of years. Same goes for the cute little Chinese Chery cars (profiled by Peter Hessler in The New Yorker), expected to cross the Pacific in 2007. But, according to this TIME story, making waves in America won’t necessarily be easy for Chinese car companies:
For upstarts like Geely and Chery, it’s a formidable task to pierce the cutthroat U.S. market, in which only a handful of sophisticated players (Honda, Toyota, BMW) consistently post profits. Geely was founded as a maker of refrigerators in 1986 and shifted to cars in 1998; Chery launched its first model in 2000. And although Chinese vehicle quality is improving, it lags Western standards by wide margins. Chery’s QQ model, for instance, had an average 391 problems per 100 vehicles, according to J.D. Power’s latest initial-quality survey. For U.S. models, the average is 118. Chinese manufacturers must also redesign cars to meet tougher U.S. emissions and safety standards, a cumbersome, costly process. And they must build distribution and sales networks, which will take time and money.