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Saab head: Chinese-built cars could be sold in U.S. by 2014

by Drew Johnson

Saab head Victor Muller envisions Chinese-built cars to be sold here in the next 2-3 years.

Although Chinese automakers have been trying to crack the United States market for years now with no luck, Saab head Victor Muller says he expects at least one Chinese car company to be selling vehicles on our shores by 2014. Coincidentally, Muller's comments come just days after Saab inked a partnership with Chin's Hawtai Motor Group.

"We laughed when the Japanese came," said Muller. "We laughed when the Koreans came. But we will not be laughing when the Chinese come. The Chinese are like a steamroller."

Muller said Saab's U.S. distribution network could be used to sell a Chinese-made vehicle for around $10,000, but stopped short of specifically naming Hawtai Motor. Muller added that "there are 120 companies" in China that could utilize Saab's dealer network. Whatever the case, the Chinese-made vehicles would be sold under their own name.

Looks over safety
Although Saab has built a strong reputation for vehicle safety over the years, don't expect the first Chinese-vehicles in the U.S. to share that trait. Muller admitted that the first Chinese vehicles sold in the U.S. wouldn't earn a five-star crash rating, but added buyers would overlook any safety concerns if the vehicles looked good.

In China "you can get a $10,000 SUV with air conditioning and electric windows, everything that was ever invented for a car. Do you really worry about a five-star (crash rating)? They look good," Muller said.

While it's still too early to tell how a $10,000 Chinese-made vehicle would fare in the U.S., we doubt many buyers would ignore sub-standard safety ratings just to have AC and electric windows.

References
1.'Chinese-built cars...' view