NYT: Chinese Automakers Building Detroit Presence

5/14/13Follow @XconomyDET

A story ran in Monday’s New York Times detailing the increasing presence of Chinese automakers in Detroit. Though the headline suggested the Chinese companies were establishing their American outposts “quietly,”  Xconomy reported on the trend in July 2011.

Though the NYT article claimed there was no way to know for certain how many Chinese companies have established offices in the U.S., the Detroit Regional Chamber told us in 2011 that at least 50 Chinese companies serving the auto industry had established new ventures in metro Detroit during the past decade—up from five in 2000.

Xconomist David Cole, a founder of the Center for Automotive Research and currently the board chairman for Autoharvest, the nonprofit website connecting the auto industry with entrepreneurs and inventors, told the New York Times that Chinese companies are coming to Detroit to plumb the depths of our region’s automotive expertise.

Hong Su, vice president of Changan Automotive’s research and development center in Plymouth, MI, told Xconomy in 2011 that most of the global automotive companies have significant operations or headquarters in the Detroit area. “It makes it easier to co-develop components that are then included in the final product, which is manufactured in China,” he said.

Now, it seems, the Obama administration has taken note of the growth of Chinese companies in Detroit and filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization that China’s government is unfairly subsidizing the production of some parts shipped to America.

The Times reports that, last year, China exported about $13 billion in automotive goods to the U.S., but now Chinese companies are pursuing business arrangements with American carmakers directly. Even as the domestic auto industry is building and formalizing partnerships with Chinese companies, it is simultaneously preparing for the day that a Chinese automaker builds a car that is able to compete in the U.S. market.

As Cole told the newspaper, “The Chinese have a lot of money and they are moving fast. We’re going to see a lot more of them here.” For a partial list Xconomy put together in 2011 of some of the more prominent Chinese companies with a presence in metro Detroit, click here.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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