Made in China

You know how on your fancy mobile phone or high-end, super-expensive laptop (not giving names… Apple, Sony, Samsung) it says “Designed in California”. That’s just a nice way of saying that it’s built in a factory in the middle of China. I mean how else do those fakes come out at the same time as the originals.
The People’s Republic positively dominates the world with its manufacturing might, especially in electronic good. So this got me thinking, what if cars also came with the “Made in China” sticker, would you buy them, and what would they be like?

Do you have issues with the build quality there? Of course you do, everybody does. But I’ll let you in on a little secret - German build quality is a bit of a myth. Also, we’ve all noticed how in recent years German cars and SUVs targeting the US market are a bit… rough around the edges.

Ford has factories in China, GM has a lot of factories in china and let’s not mention VW because they positively moved shop. Pretty soon, we might buy cars that are made there, and that will include cars that are designed by the Chinese. In a world where there’s an ISO standard for everything, I don’t really mind that as long as it’s not a Porsche 911 copy with squinting eyes.

Not wanting to be left behind by the Western world, Chinese automakers have copied pretty much every design ever: MINIs, Fiats, Mercs and Fords. There’s a clone for everything, and of course that annoys they guys they copied to no end. But as a consumer, I’m not worried. Japan also copied everybody in the 50s and 60s before they came up with their own thing. And even though I’m a fan, even I can’t deny Hyundais and Kias are “inspired” by VW and Opel. Copying will get you places!

And so I predict that in 10 or 20 years, at least a quarter of all cars we buy will come from China. Braking into Europe or America has proven impossible for those funny-sounding brands that sound like fried chicken recipes. So I suspect that well known manufacturers like VW or Ford will be the first to give us Chinese cars, something along the likes of the VW Fox, which comes from Brazil. We eat their food, so why not buy their cars!

Their taste in cars actually makes sense to me. The Chinese are luxury barge lovers from what I can tell, big fans of extra legroom, huge navigation screens and fake wood trim. Nothing like the Brazilians, who like econoboxes that run on natural gas. The Chinese even have tens of EV models, and that shows just how much progress their making.

Think about just how much China has changed in the past decade. In the Early 1990s, it must have been really strange to own a car there. In a country where most rode bicycles, you stood out like a sore thumb, and standing out in a communist country is definitely not good.

Nowadays, things have gotten a little bit more capitalistic there. They buy more Porsches than any other country in the world, and the state seems to like cars too. A couple of months ago, China’s Google banned the word “Ferrari” from searches to hide the fact that the son of an important official crashed one. Oh yes, they know about cars!

In 1977 china passed the 1 million car mark, now there should be about 90 million. That’s a 90-fold increase in just 35 years. By 2020, it’s expected to reach 200 million. With so many drivers on China’s roads, how long will it be before they figure out something that we also like to buy, something along the lines of the Indian-built Dacia Duster.

At every motor show we go to, there’s a couple of guys with tape measures and clipboards, measuring the latest Audi or BMW. It’s all very fine and dandy, but the results they come up… it’s like somebody described the Audi or BMW by phone - it’s all warped and distorted.

But recently, they have been going at it alone and getting good results to the point where I can imagine buying a Chinese car as a second vehicle for the family. Honestly, the SAICs and BAICs and BYDs, they’re all proper cars now, not very good ones, but good enough for the money.

So yes, “Made in China” will be written all over your car in 5 to 10 years. In fact, what am I saying, it already is if you look closely enough.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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