This is our fourth and (for now) final installment in our series on cars that survived their original production life-cycle by being sold to Chinese auto makers who gratefully will continue production until eternity. Also read part 1 about the Seat Toledo I, Seat Ibiza I, MG ZT, MG TF, Rover Streetwise and LDV Maxus, part 2 about the Volkswagen Jetta, Audi 100, Daihatsu Move and Austin Maestro/Montego and part 3 about the Suzuki Alto, Daihatsu Terios, Fiat Palio/Siena, Fiat Multipla and Lancia Lybra. If you know of any other models that would fit this list, please let me know!
The oldest Joint Venture between a Chinese manufacturer and a foreign auto maker is that between American Motors and Beijing Auto Works, which was established in 1983, making the Jeep Cherokee XJ in China, starting in 1985. When Chrysler took control of AMC, the Chinese JV fell into their lap, and it even continued after the merger with Daimler. US production of the Cherokee ended in 2001, but production in China continued until 2007. A few years earlier, Beijing Jeep Corporation had bought the production line for the Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ which ended US production in 2004. Chinese production of the Grand Cherokee started in 2006 and lasted only that year, when DaimlerChrysler decided to drop local production of the two Cherokee models as SUVs made up only 5% of the market at that time, while sedans took 90%. They started Chinese production of the Chrysler 300C instead, followed by the Sebring in 2007. The two models suffered from slow sales and when DaimlerChrysler split up again later that year, Daimler held on to the partnership with BAIC, pulling the plug out of Chrysler production in China, leaving Chrysler in the wind. Eventually Fiat bought Chrysler out of its bankruptcy and included the American brand in its manufacturing Joint Venture with GAC, starting production of the new generation Jeep Cherokee at the end of 2015.
Meanwhile, BAIC started production of the BAW Qishi (Chinese for Knight) in 2009, which was its own version of the Cherokee XJ, now with a five-slot grille and Nissan-sourced 4-cylinder engines. The Qishi was not very successful, which isn’t surprising considering it was based on a 25-year old design, no matter how good it was. A 2011 upgrade and rename to Qishi S12 didn’t help much. [Read more…]