Over the past several years, rumors of a pending “invasion” of the US consumer market by cheaply priced (and cheaply made) Chinese cars have surfaced from time to time.
First, it was Chery Automotive, a company sued by General Motors for having a name too close to Chevy, the nickname for GM’s iconic Chevrolet brand. A company set up by Malcolm Bricklin who brought the ill-famed Yugo to our shores in the 1980s was planning to bring these same Chery cars stateside as recently as 2006, but that venture has failed and Mr. Bricklin is in a legal wrangle with his Chinese partners.
Next, it was Brilliance Auto who talked about shipping their cars to the US only to be publicly embarrassed when their flagship Brilliance BS6 (I kid you not, that is the name of this model) failed an important European crash test. Results of that test were posted to YouTube and and can still be found there today. Yes, that is the car’s windshield that worked its way loose and went flying…get out of the way!
Lastly, just about every other manufacturer of Chinese cars has also promised to import their cars to the US including several with unpronounceable and clearly unforgettable names. Great Wall Motor (GWM) is one of the easier names to remember, but their cars were kicked out of Italy recently after a judge ruled that one of its models was a replica of the Fiat Panda, a charge that GWM denies.
Brilliance Auto At The 2009 NAIAS
This year’s auto show in Detroit (North American International Auto Show or NAIAS) featured a handful of models from select Chinese companies, but none have promised what Brilliance Auto plans to do in 2009: put their cars on display and start selling them the same year in the US.
Brilliance has announced that they will ship their BS6 midsize sedan, BS4 compact car, BC3 sport coupe, and FRV hatchback to Detroit for the 2009 NAIAS and begin selling their cars in America later in 2009. Moreover, company officials promise that by this December each featured model will pass stringent US safety and emissions testing.
Advice For Brilliance
Though I certainly commend Brilliance for their persistence, I can offer some advice to the company before they show up in Detroit this January:
Change the name of your models – In the US, BS doesn’t mean Brilliance Sedan – it wouldn’t be proper etiquette to explain exactly what these two letters stand for, but it has something to do with cattle excrement.
Build better quality – The federal government will require your cars to pass US tests otherwise no Brilliance model will be allowed to enter US ports. Once you get that down, you need to make sure that your cars can stand the test of time. American drivers are picky and expect their vehicles to last without bumpers falling off, side panels rotting, or windshield panes breaking.
Hire a US PR firm – Work with a US public relations firm who understands the domestic automotive market and be ready to listen to their advice. Some of what they have to say will frustrate you, but be ready to make changes as needed. Hire a crack writing team who can properly translate documents from Mandarin to English flawlessly. American consumers will only laugh at your poorly translated documentation.
Will Brilliance succeed stateside? That depends – their cars have to be of decent quality, priced to sell, and be backed by a generous warranty. You can bet that the first time a Brilliance model is in an accident, news crews will descend to see how it withstood the crash and what damage was realized. If things get ugly, YouTube could become the worst PR nightmare for the fledging Chinese auto industry.
(Source: The Auto Writer)