As I turn my thoughts (and early morning telephone calls) to our next AMS conference, AMS China in June 26-28, industry colleagues in Europe and the US often say to me: “You are always going on about China automotive but when will we see Chinese cars on our roads?”
Well, this is understandable as there were just 107 MG cars sold in January 2012, and Great Wall and Geely are still not in the showrooms here in the UK. But make no mistake, the Chinese are coming, and with quality vehicles that excel in many areas: value, economy and, what has been a tough bridge to cross, safety. Geely’s Emgrand EC7 saloon achieved four stars in the Euro NCAP test and will come with a five year/100,000 mile warranty when UK sales start in Spring 2012.
While Chinese-engineered and made cars will not make a large dent in the global OEMs' market share just yet (Ford sold more than 107 cars in the UK alone every four hours in January), there are a surprising number of Chinese components in some of our favourite cars. The Audi TT, Land Rover Evoque, Chevrolet Corvette and several other US market GM cars carry major parts and systems from BeijingWest Industries (BWI), a joint venture company formed by three Chinese state enterprises. If you wondered what happened to Delphi’s chassis division, well, there is your answer. Through the acquisition of the former GM-family parts maker, BWI gained technical centres and plants in Japan, Europe, Mexico and the US, and a contract manufacturing arm in Noida, India. The state enterprise aspect of the company has raised fears of dumping and subsidised undercut pricing among more reactionary commentators.
But this is just scaremongering and does not stack up; BWI works with Luxgen, a Taiwanese carmaker, through its JV called Dongfeng-Yulon, formed through an alliance with Nissan. It has long term agreements with global carmakers and may soon be selling parts to some super-luxury carmakers. By stratifying parts production throughout the world, and by not being tied to arcane labour agreements and inefficient plants, BWI is simply showing what can be done with 'new world' energy and a fresh approach.
This and many other topics will be discussed at the third AMS China conference in Shanghai in June this year and I hope to see you there.
In the meantime, please do send me your news, views and indeed any observations about the industry – I need your feedback to better inform you about tomorrow’s automotive manufacturing solutions.