Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., which has Joint Ventures with FCA and several Japanese automakers to produce cars locally for the Chinese market under the brands Jeep, Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi and its own Trumpchi brand, has finally announced concrete plans to enter the US car market. The company had been planning such a move since 2014 and has been showing its models at the North American Auto Show for a few years, among others the GS8 crossover just last year, and both Kriss and I found it one of the stars of the show. This week the brand is showing the new GA4 sedan in Detroit. It expects to start sales of its GS8 crossover in the fourth quarter of 2019 and will start to recruit dealers next March at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention in Las Vegas.
It appears GAC, which is probably best known in the US from its product placement of the Trumpchi GS5 in the movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, will not partner up with its JV partner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to launch its North American sales, but instead will go at it alone. The automaker hasa already opened a technical center in Silicon Valley, and plans to open a second facility in metro Detroit. The next step, according to Wang Qui Jing, chief of GAC’s engineering institute, is to establish a design studio in Los Angeles. Automotive News reports GAC has been closely studying the US market, talking to consumers and running clinics to find out what American consumers care about. One of the major points will be to convince people that Chinese products are on par with Western quality standards, something is helped by Buick and Volvo, which already import their Envision crossover and S90 sedan from China, with Ford planning to import the next generation Focus from the People’s Republic as well. The fact that GAC already produces for a handful of Japanese brands known for their high quality standards will surely help, and it probably will mention that J.D. Power’s Initial Quality study has ranked GAC the top-scoring Chinese automaker for the past five years.
The automaker is logically dropping the Trumpchi label as it bears too much resemblance to the current president and instead is contemplating launching a new brand, although it could also enter the US market under the GAC brand. The advantage to that would be that if GAC succeeds in launching in North America, it will reflect positively on its image at home and other export markets. In its home market, GAC is already on a hot streak, having launched just 7 years ago and growing to over 500.000 domestic sales in 2017, up 37% on 2016. The GS8 7-seater crossover took a fifth of those with 100.000 sales, in addition to just over 8.000 units of the 5-seater version GS7 which was launched in the second half of the year. Its most popular model is the GS4 crossover which regularly featured in the top-3 of best selling crossovers in China in 2016 but has been overtaken by rivals like the Baojun 510 of GM-SAIC-Wuling and the Geely Boyue. The company has not revealed which other models it is kcontemplating to launch in North America. The GS8 is is powered by a 2-liter engine which generates 198hp and 320Nm (236 pound-feet) of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It reminded Kriss somewhat of the GMC Yukon, while I see some resemblances to the Infiniti QX80.