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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Emerging Automakers: Pt. 3 of 4

What are the future goals of the Chinese automakers?
Ah, the third installment. So the other day I picked up the latest issue Motor Trend and in its special 2010 Power List article, ‘lo and behold, we find our friend Mr. Wang Chuanfu, the BYD Company chairman, placed at #30.
Telling it like it is, MT describes the auto connection of BYD to be, “… started building Mercedes/Peugeot/Toyota lookalikes in 2003.”
I’d defend that long standing household names in particular industries are going to fare far better than an emerging company. I’d also contest that this trait is more apparent in the car industry than in any other. Countless hopefuls have tried but eventually had to close shop so fast that they barely even got a chance to get their name out. And perhaps the fastest way to level the playing ground a bit would be borrowing manufacturing techniques and ideas, not unlike what BYD is already doing, from the established companies in order to rapidly catch up.
But MT also hinted the possibilities of BYD becoming the next Hyundai. If being the next Hyundai means to be the next Asian car company underdog to eventually break out of its bargain basement mold and become recognized as a true competitor in quality control and performance, sure. Eventually. That’s a legit future goal to have in mind, anyway.
MT also provided us with a bit of a background on Mr. Wang Chuanfu. Mr. Wang grew up in poverty at the Province of Anhui. He studied in metallurgical physics and chemistry, and eventually started what’s now the world’s largest producer of cell-phone batteries.
Take a moment to piece that together-- A mother load of cell-phone batteries and a box with wheels. What do you get?
For GM, the Chevrolet Volt required heavy dedication of both time and money for R&D. The Volt is basically GM hedging itself for the eminent trends in environment and energy. The result is a car that must shoulder a lot of expectation as well as substantiate a demanding price of somewhere between $35-45 grand.
I’m going to predict that BYD is going to make things very difficult for the Volt. The advantage that BYD possesses, unfair or not, is their position in cell phone battery manufacturing makes them very experienced in approaching electric power at a very competitive price.
Oh no, I don’t just mean a little competitive. I mean something as freaking ridiculous as future Chinese EVs entering our market through dealers the likes of Costco and Walmart! Imagine, “Honey we’re out of milk. Oh and can you also grab a disposable Chinese car really quick? Thanks.” This is taking the joke that Asian cars are like appliances to a whole other level!
This saddens me. And I feel a bit like a bringer of bad news. What are the future goals of the Chinese Automakers? It's as if the answer to this question is to suck the soul out of the sacred relationship between car and driver, pretty much milking the industry of all its worth and turn it on its head.
And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Have you guys seen that infamous Top Gear season finale? Chills down my spine the first time I saw it and I'm still a bit disturbed every time I watch it again.

Readers, car enthusiasts, it's going be up to us. There's still a light at the end of the tunnel. There will still be V12 sports cars made yet and it's going to be people like us that will make them. There's enough of us that giving in doesn't have to be the only way. After all, what will be in store? Movies like "Fast and the Furious- Recharged" featuring EVs? Motor Trend takes a sneak peak at Costco and Walmart's upcoming catalog? phooey.
So, I guess fellow readers sense a lot of disdain emitting from me towards car companies run by my people (I'm Chinese). All this Mercedes/Peugeot/Toyota look-a-likery, business methods built upon cutting corners and cutting costs and finally the lack of regard the Chinese show to the people and to the industry they are affecting.
Can there be any emerging automaker that I do appreciate coming from Asia?
-Danny Choy-

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