-- What would happen if Detroit sold over a million
cars and trucks a month? Ah, this is not Fantasyland, so
don’t bother putting on your 3-D glasses.
I am talking about China. In 2009, 13.7 million new cars
and trucks were sold there. Ten million were sold here,
many of them not American or made in America by Toyota,
Honda, and other foreign companies, like Mitsubishi, who
bombed shut the entrance to a gold mine in the waning days
of WWII, dooming hundreds of American, British, and Australian
POWs to hide evidence of their violation of the Geneva Convention.
China was on our side in WW2, and they still are. If they
weren’t, they would demand all the money they loaned
us back and we’d be cooking Rover for dinner.
In 2020, there will be 300 million cars and trucks in China.
Our current population is estimated at 307 million in the
There are a lot of car companies in China, but the three
biggest ones are Chery, SAIC, and BYD Auto. Warren Buffett
bought into BYD and their stock went up like Balloon Boy.
He also owns Geico. Well, his company Berkshire Hathaway
does. They also own some of Wal-Mart, which, as you know,
seems to sell only stuff made in China.
But, speaking of BYD, short for “Build Your Dreams,”
they plan to launch their pure electric car, the e6, later
this year right here in the USA. It seats five and goes
300 kilometers on a single charge. It takes ten minutes
for a half charge, and an hour for a full charge.
BYD is a global battery-making leader. It is the #2 cellphone
battery maker in the world. They are based in Shenzhen,
just north of Hong Kong, in a small village turned into
a city of over 8 million in the blink of an eye. Another
million will be added before you can say “Dalai
BYD also makes an electric bus called the e-bus. It’s
motor is in the wheels. Move over VW. Welcome to “Chinese
Paul Lin, Global Marketing Manager of BYD Auto, addressed
the media and a slew of automotive industry folks at China
Business Update and China Automotive Review’s third
annual half-day seminar at the Detroit Auto Show, fashionably
dubbed the North American International Auto Show, for fear
of scaring the bejesus out of people who only hear about
the murders, carjackings and gangs roaming wild in the streets
of Motown. Whatever gave them that idea? They must watch
the news or something….
Mr. Lin seemed very thoughtful and conscientious and is
part of probably the greatest and greenest auto company
in the world, striving hard to bring electric vehicles to
the global marketplace. “We need pure electric vehicles
as part of a systematic solution…..we have to do that,”
he cautioned, noting the environmental impact of the combustible
BYD even has portable charging stations that can be airlifted
by helicopter into areas affected by earthquakes. How cool
is that? I asked him if he could send one on a ship through
the Panama Canal to Haiti, but his English not so good.
A nationwide network of battery-charging stations is necessary
in both China and America for pure electric cars to be a
viable alternative to fossil fuel-burning engines. BYD is
on that big time and with Warren Buffett on board, stockholders
are confident that it will happen this year.
Wayne Xing, the Editor/Publisher of CBU/CAR, in response
to me asking if the e6 and Chevrolet Volt would be able
to charge at each others’ charging stations said that
when Presidents Obama and Hu met in Beijing in 2009, the
two leaders discussed standardization. I sure hope so, especially
early on in the history of electric cars when I suspect
finding a charging station with an open space for your car
will be at a premium.
The cost of making a car in China goes down every year.
China has got it going on. The demand for cars is so high
in China that it takes 3 to 4 months to get your car after
you order it. Because Chinese cars are selling like hot
cakes domestically, many Chinese automakers are not motivated
to try their hand at the export business, despite encouragement
from the Chinese government. Plus, they know America is
a land of lawyers, lawsuits, and lemon laws.
However, BYD is ready to buck the trend and take the plunge
into the American melting pot. SAIC has teamed up with GM
to make cars in India as GM-SAIC Motor India. Geely is expected
to finalize its acquisition of Volvo from Ford this year.
Beijing Automotive, a state-run automaker, bought a big
chunk of Saab, a Swedish auto company. And Sichuan Tengzhong
Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd. is wrapping up its
purchase of Hummer from GM. Seems like everyone wants a
Hummer, if they just weren’t so hard to park.
Studies have shown that 10 percent of the American public
would consider buying an electric car. Thirty-four percent
would willingly help pay for local charging stations. With
a range far exceeding most people’s usual daily mileage,
electric cars last big problem is how quiet they are, but
engineers are working on ways to create artificial noise
to alert pedestrians and silly squirrels. Maybe if drivers
used their horns more than they text that would help, too,
huh? And slow down when you see animals by the road, please!
VW is the largest foreign automaker in China. GM, Ford,
and Chrysler are all there, too. Foreign luxury cars do
quite well in China as the middle class expands. Like Australia,
the global economic crisis did not hit China as hard as
it hit here and in Europe. Canada got hit pretty hard, too.
Some say China is due for a “correction” as
some people there have been overstating the numbers. We
shall have to wait and see. Surely, some Chinese automakers
like Brilliance have faltered. They lost a lot of key players
to rival companies since the 2009 NAIAS.
Dr. Cai Haimian, President of Henglong Steering USA and
Director of China Automotive Systems, a Chinese company
specializing in power steering systems, said it best, “You
can’t think about five years from now, if you don’t
survive today.” China is a survivor, though.
They have been around a lot longer than America, and we
could learn a thing or two from them. Have we ever fought
off the Mongols?
If Chinese automakers continue to partner with America and
Americans like Warren Buffett, there are bright days ahead
for both of us. Like the Yin and Yang, if the East and West
can work together harmoniously on business, cultural, economic,
environmental, human rights, religious, and security issues,
hopefully we can overlook our political and philosophical
differences and live in peace and prosperity, while kicking
jihadist butt, of course!