All Your Cars Are Belong to Us...
As you guys all know, so far the Chinese presence on the world car market has been virtually non-existent, mainly because every step they made in this direction was met with extreme criticism by the automotive media and even by their almost-to-be customers. Pretty much every Chinese car that tried to enter the European or American car market has suffered from dreadful levels of quality and disastrous crash test results.
Because of these two reasons, but mainly because of the precarious safety levels, not one car manufacturer from China has so far successfully succeeded in entering one of the two greatest car markets in the world: Europe and North America. I'm not even going to mention all the copy-cat vehicles they have been (and still are!) introducing on an almost monthly basis. Apparently, not every potential customer looked at the show-stopping prices, instead focusing on the horrendous quality and the life-threatening safety of the Chinese cars.
So, what can the Chinese do to penetrate (pun intended, especially considering the context) the aforementioned two car markets, in the shortest time possible? You have four possible answers:
(a) Suddenly develop a quality control system for the very first time in order to make their cars better.
(b) Transform their four wheeled products from mobile death traps to adequately safe automobiles by studying the way crumple zones and safety cells work.
(c) Hire some Italian dudes to pen their cars without stealing too much from other models and thus create their own design language.
(d) Buy a few cash-strapped manufacturers which are already established as a brand on the markets they're trying to enter.
If you chose (d), as I did, you might have won the prize! Last week, the "all-'merican" brand Hummer was sold to a company called Sichuan Tengzhong. You guessed it, from China. what these guys are going to do to with Hummer is anyone's guess so far. Most of the rumors are telling me that Hummer will eventually survive, even if the era of gas-guzzling V8 might end to make room for the Watts era, with batteries made in... you guessed it again!... China.
Another report surfaced today saying that Geely, a company mostly known for blatantly-copying a bunch of European and Japanese models, has struck a deal in buying the international synonym for automotive safety, none other than Volvo Cars. If indeed true, this would only mean a double for Geely:
- a better access to the European market;
- access to Volvo's safety knowledge.
Is this good or bad? Well, contrary to what you might think, I'm actually welcoming these moves and I hope the Chinese will befriend other established car makers also. Why, you ask? Well, this seems to be just about the only way in which Chinese cars can actually become better and stop copying the rest.