China’s GAC to sell SUV in US for small-car price by 2019

DETROIT — Chinese automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group aims to sell a well-equipped five-passenger SUV in the US for about the price of a compact car by the end of this decade.

ENSPIRIT. The GAC Motors EnSpirit, an electronic hybrid conceptual car, is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. GAC unveiled three new vehicles at Detroit Auto Show, including the plug-in hybrid. (AP FOTO)
ENSPIRIT. The GAC Motors EnSpirit, an electronic hybrid conceptual car, is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. GAC unveiled three new vehicles at Detroit Auto Show, including the plug-in hybrid. (AP FOTO)

Automakers from China have talked in the past about selling cars in the US only to run into reality — such as a lack of dealerships to sell them or subpar quality by US standards. But a top Guangzhou official said Monday that the company is already laying the groundwork to begin sales here no later than in 2019.

Guangzhou, known as GAC, unveiled three new vehicles Monday at the annual auto show in Detroit: a plug-in hybrid concept car called EnSpirit, the five-seat gas-powered GS7 SUV, and the electric GE3 SUV. The company also displayed a sedan.

GAC wants to start sales in the US no later than in 2019, and is working on setting up a dealer network, building a US research center this year, and complying with stricter US safety regulations, Director and General Manager Yu Jun said through an interpreter.

The GX7 SUV, with a leather interior, touch screen and automatic transmission, would cost from $15,000 to $18,000 in the US at present, Yu said, about the same as a base model Chevrolet Cruze compact car. By comparison, the five-seat Toyota RAV4 small SUV starts around $25,000.

GAC now sells about 380,000 vehicles per year in China, a relatively small number in the world’s largest auto market of about 22 million annual sales. It sells few cars outside of China. By comparison, General Motors and its Chinese affiliates sold 2.7 million vehicles in China in the first nine months of 2016.

Yu said GAC expects to expand from seven models currently on sale to over 20 by 2020, including eight electric or gas-electric hybrid models. Some would be designed just for the US market, he added.

Although the company said at a news conference that it could be selling SUVs in the US as early as next year, Yu said 2019 was more a realistic target. “We absolutely need to ensure that our products meet all the requirements of the US market,” he said.

Yu said GAC already is winning awards for quality in China and is building a good reputation there. (AP)

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