Made in China: Does it matter?
The phrase “made in China” is rarely a selling point in America. It’s even more rare to apply it to vehicles from American automakers. Until now.
Venture into a Buick, Cadillac or a Ford showroom (by 2019), and uncover Chinese-built vehicles such as Buick Envision, Cadillac CT-6 plug-in hybrid or the next Ford Focus. After more than a decade of stalled starts, the Chinese brands are coming, too. Does anybody care? Should they?
In 2009, China became the largest auto market in the world, capturing over 20 percent global market share and almost 34 percent of total passenger car production, according to Statista.com. It influences what automakers do and how they do it.
Volvo, the venerable Swedish brand owned by the Chinese multinational automotive company Geely, was the first automaker to export from China to the U.S. with the S60 Inscription in 2015. Except for an assembly plate in the door jam, you never would know. It worked so well Volvo opened an assembly plant in Charleston, South Carolina on June 20. The plant will produce the sleek new S60 sedan initially, and according to Automotive News, the XC90 crossover by 2021. This marks the first time a Chinese-owned automaker assembled cars in the U.S.
Geely itself was the first Chinese automaker to announce plans to sell vehicles in the U.S. during the 2006 Detroit auto show, but nobody imagined Volvo being its spearhead. Volvo was owned by Ford until 2010. Geely has been strategic in leveraging Volvo as an engineering center to improve its own models. Geely and Volvo are even co-developing a new line of vehicles branded “Lynk & Co”, launching here with the “01” crossover in 2020.
在2006年底特律汽车展期间，吉利本身是首家宣布计划在美国销售汽车的中国汽车制造商，但没人想象过沃尔沃会成为其先锋。2010年之前，沃尔沃一直为福特所有。吉利一直在战略上利用沃尔沃作为一个工程中心来改进自己的车型。吉利和沃尔沃甚至联合开发了一款名为“Lynk & Co”的新车型，将于2020年与“01”跨界车一起推出。
Buick’s path from Detroit to Shanghai and back is more circuitous. According to official GM history, Buicks were prestige cars in the early 20th Century and driven by Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China and its first provisional president, Zhou Enlai, who became China’s premier, and Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. According to legend, two of Pu Yi’s Buicks were the first cars to enter the Forbidden City in Beijing.
It was a status symbol, so GM’s partner, SAIC, the state-owned automaker based in Shanghai, wanted to consummate their relationship with Buick. In 1995, they agreed to build a new factory to assemble the Century and GL8 minivan that’s only for the Chinese market. Today, about five times as many Buicks are sold in China as the U.S. Some, like the popular Envision crossover, return home. And for good reason. Buick imported 40,040 Envisions in 2017 plus 16,814 in the first half of 2018, making it the brand’s third-most-popular model.
“The vehicle was originally developed for the Chinese market, but it was a nice fit for the U.S.,” said one of the Buick representatives onhand at its unveiling at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. “We weren’t going to tool an additional factory, so it was from China or not at all. We believe most owners won’t care where it is built as long as it fits their needs.”
Surveys seem to support that statement.
According to a study by Autolist.com, under a third of U.S. consumers say a vehicle being built in China would affect their purchasing decision while 49 percent say it would have no impact. Those concerned cite build quality, U.S. jobs, and reliability as reasons. Of course, this is complicated by tariffs that could raise from the current 2.5 percent to 25 percent if President Trump carries through on threats.
“If, in the event of higher tariffs, the Chinese cannot export directly from their factories at home, they may decide to assemble vehicles in the U.S., just as the Japanese and Koreans and Germans have done with transplants,” said Michael J. Dunne, automotive consultant and author of “American Wheels, Chinese Roads.”
They may do that, but the Chinese won’t just accept tariffs without a reaction.
“The problem is the retaliatory effect,” said Dr. Roberto Garcia, professor of international business at Indiana University. “Toyota and Honda could increase investment, but they also do this to export. If automakers see a trade war looming, it will impact U.S. investment and employment. Long-term decisions are being impacted. Volvo...has production in the U.S., but that doesn’t all stay in the U.S. Some goes back to China.”
That should matter to car buyers.
“The investments, suppliers, jobs, and tax revenue all flow to and remain in China,” Dunne said.
The tariff issue also complicates free market capitalism and consumer choice. In early August, GM asked the Trump administration for a tariff exemption on the Envision, otherwise it may pull it from the U.S. market.
China has ceded some ground. It requires auto assemblers to be at least 50 percent domestically owned, but has agreed to phase out the requirement by 2020.
We’ll soon lean how consumers feel about buying Chinese-branded imports. GAC, with global sales of 510,000 vehicles in 2017, will begin selling a 7-passenger crossover called the G8 in late 2019. FAW Group, one of China’s largest automakers, plans to debut the Guyon electric vehicle, with a 310- to 434-mile range, in 2019. BYD, which builds electric busses in California and is backed by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, will likely follow.
Beyond tariffs, the big question is if Chinese automakers are ready to play on the big American stage.
“Chinese quality is quickly closing in on that of global automakers,” Dunne said. “They still need to work on details.”
“Let’s say there is a backing down of tariffs and this all becomes bluster,” Garcia said. “Then, the Chinese would have to do what the Koreans and Japanese did before them. They have to introduce vehicles with unique features or lower prices. They would have to methodically build up dealer networks.”
None of this will be easy. Chinese vehicles must meet federal safety and fuel economy regulations. It took Asian automakers decades to become competitive, but partnering with Western automakers like Geely with Volvo should expedite success.
“In twenty years, if unusual barriers go away, we can expect a slow long-term introduction to the U.S. market,” Garcia said. “I remember in the 1980s, in an attempt to repel Japan, when ‘Made In America’ was put on cars, consumers still made decisions with the most economic benefit to them.”
Does it matter? If they have to ask this question their already is a huge problem
Stop by Harbor Freight, and see why Chinese manufacturing quality is questionable.
Yes it does matter. I would not buy one even if it got an American brand name on it. There are so many (better) alternatives out there.
A product design to race to an auto recycler faster than you can imagine, yes it does "matter".
It absolutely does. I avoid made-in China products, especially under the Chinese brands, whenever possible.
It only matters if you care about the American economy and YOUR job. Production of goods and jobs have a multiplier effect. Even if your job is not directly effected, your job security is reduced by china. Who knows, perhaps journalism jobs can be shifted to china. That should get media's attention.
Made in China? I would not buy Ford again.
It does matter, "made in China" more choices & competitive pricing & it enabled US economic expansion in last 35 year. Did we really think our growth was attributed from graduating record number of lawyers & communications degrees?
We Do Not need or want vehicles built in China.
While Americans wait for Trump's next tweet, Chinese flags are being raised all over the world, especially here in America. The goal is obvious. It's a lot easier to quietly take over a country economically than it is to invade with the military.
Great value and quality - sure I go for it.
our landfills are full of china stuff ...
Yes it matters a lot
People buy things not based on where it's made but based on what they want. I don't think any vehicle made in Mexico sells any less due to it being made there. Lots of American branded cars are made in Mexico. Likewise I don't think there is any negative impact of iPhones being produced in China. Decades ago it meant something.
Yes it does! Remember Chinese dry wall. baby toys loaded with lead paint, dog food etc. Has anybody ever been reimbursed by the Chines for their lousy dry wall? China has no quality control and workers rights.
Who in the heck did they survey? Not one of my friends or acquaintances
would buy a car made in China. I looked at the Buick Envision before I
bought a car in March of this year, but when I found out it was made in
China, the deal was off. I bought an American car made in the USA by
Hey, maybe China can bail out GM next time. That's what's wrong with "Made in China".
Right thing to do
It may not matter to some but is should, how Americans forget about the days when you could buy a stove or range, it was in your grandmas house more than 25 years or longer. I still have my great grandmas furniture in a cottage plus kitchen ware from over a hundred years ago and still used today. Now saying that a vase from China made 1000 years ago would be well made.
We can not find it at either Walgreens nor Walmart !
I don't really have a problem with a China made Buick, but I do have a problem paying the price they charge for an American made Buick for one made in China. If it is made in China, I want to pay the made in China price. That Buick made in China should only list at $11,000.00 MAX.
In the '60's "made in Japan" had the same stigma. Everybody thought the honda civic was a clown car!
Trump's MAGA gear made in China, along with Trump branded merchandise.
Most consumers do compare shoping. The most important factor is the Quality and Price ratio. Chinese manufacturing may not have the highest quality in the world, but its quality and price ratio is probably is near the top.
"Made in China" is rarely a selling point, ironically "made in China" has most volume, most turn over, most profitable & lifted the US economy to its current GDP.
And of course Buick is requesting the U.S. go nment to exempt Buick from the new tariffs on cars made in China and sold in the U.S. Too bad they didn't think of that when they laid off or didn't hire workers for a plant in the U.S. Screw Buick, Ford, and Cadillac.
I love Chinese made!
China is not playing fair when it comes to trade. Does it matter ? you betcha , to the thousands of autoworkers and their families in the country it matters !! To writers and CEO, s it doesn't matter. The Envision sales are very slow , so it matters to many buyers.
My girl 8 yrs old then bought a Disney on ice light up toy for $10 of her own money; after usage for about 1/2 an hour, it broke.. since then whatever made from China she refuses to buy or use ... even the chair she sit on.
Matters to me. All of the vehicles listed would never be on my shopping list.
Chinese-made products are substandard. The only thing they have going for them is very low prices, so when vehicles are brought over and do not share the bargain-bin pricing, they are not worth anything.