Cleveland, Ohio – Haah Automotive, a California company that hopes to import semi-finished vehicles from China for the U.S. market, has hired real estate giant CBRE to buy an existing car plant to build vehicles.
Haah is working with two different Chinese automakers to bring similar vehicles into the U.S. It announced plans last year to import that Zotye T600 by the end of this year or in early 2021. In February, it announced plans to import a vehicle based on the Chery Exeed using the Vantas brand name.
While Volvo makes some sedans in China that are sold in the U.S., and General Motors makes the Buick Encore there, no company has successfully brought a Chinese-branded car to the U.S. market. In addition to trade tensions, other issues must be addressed.
Chery and GM fought a lawsuit over the one-letter difference between Chevy and Chery, and GM accused the automaker of intellectual property theft on one vehicle. The companies settled that suit in 2005. The Vantas name avoids that similarity for the U.S. market.
Late last year, Haah announced it had signed up 100 dealers to sell the Zotye crossover in the U.S., but company officials have not said how close that is to becoming a reality. The ongoing trade war with China could make cars produced there more expensive.
With the Chery/Vantas crossovers, Haah plans to bring semi-knockdown kits – finished vehicles from China that have been partially disassembled – to the U.S. where workers would reassemble them into finished crossovers. In the 1980s, several of Japan’s automakers used a similar strategy to avoid U.S. tariffs on finished cars.
Haah officials say they hope to eventually build the cars in the U.S. entirely, using some parts from China but sourcing much of the vehicle’s parts locally.
They added that they’re only considering unused, existing plants to ensure that they can have cars built and at dealerships by late 2021 or early 2022.
Haah is targeting the Zotye crossover for the mass market and the Vantas/Chery crossover for premium buyers.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 20 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.