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Geely Marching Forward to ’08

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Posted ImageGeely Marching Forward to ’08

Chinese company still wants to be the first to land in America.

Geely, the ambitious automaker that wants to become the first company to sell Chinese-made cars to American consumers, is still on track to enter the U.S. market by the fall of 2008, says the fledgling company's top American executive.

John Harmer, Geely USA's chief operating officer, said during a visit to Detroit last week that Geely had followed up on its appearance at the North American International Auto Show with an extensive survey of the impact of the media coverage on American consumers. The study showed that Geely had made an impression on consumers but that Americans also had concerns about the quality of any vehicle made in China. "There seems to be a bias in the U.S. against the quality of Chinese-made products," Harmer said.

Geely, however, is now moving as quickly as they can to address the issue, Harmer said during an appearance at the Society of Automotive Analysts in Detroit.

Geely, which is privately owned, is acutely aware of the fact that the Chinese government wants to make sure the first Chinese cars sold outside the country measure up to contemporary global standards, he added. "We don't care who's first. What we do care about is when we do come, we want to be found a worthy competitor," he said.

"Geely is the only Chinese manufacturer that has made a specific commitment to the U.S. market," added Harmer, who also said that more than 200 dealers have contacted him since the Detroit auto show to ask him about handling Geely-made products.

However, nothing that has happened at or since the show has altered Geely's plans to bring a low-priced car to the U.S. market in the autumn of 2008 in time for the 2009 model year. The 2009 Geely would sell to dealers for around $7500 and would come with features such as power windows, air conditioning, and a one-disc CD player as well as a radio and would meet all U.S. crash and emission standards.

Harmer added Geely has already put in place an aggressive engineering effort to deal with the quality and customer satisfaction issues, he said. Geely's plan is to aim at the economy end of the U.S. market where the Japanese and South Koreans first started. The goal is to sell a relatively modest 25,000 units its first year of operation and expand the sales to around 100,000 within five years, he added.

Geely also is looking for opportunities to purchase components from American suppliers and is particularly interested in safety and emissions equipment.

After the panel discussion, Harmer told reporters that one of his jobs now is to build up the infrastructure Geely will need to sell cars in the U.S. He is already looking at deals with ports in Long Beach, Calif., and Jacksonville, Fla., and also is looking at possible locations for a new headquarters. As a practical matter, Geely has to begin expanding its American headquarters soon in order to deal with regulatory and logistical issues and begin coordinating actives with dealers. Harmer said he originally hoped he might be able to keep Geely's headquarters in Salt Lake City where his home and law practices are based but he soon found that that Salt Lake, for all its amenities, isn't on automotive world's map. Consequently, Geely is seriously considering locating its headquarters in Southern California, Detroit or Memphis.

Detroit emerged as surprising contender when Harmer discovered that there are more 1500 Mandarin-speaking engineers living in the Detroit area. This potentially an enormous asset for a company such as Geely that is trying to learn about the American market, he said. Detroit's global reputation as an automotive center and the fact that other international automakers such as Hyundai, Toyota, and Volkswagen all operate inside the Detroit metroplex also make the region attractive.

Memphis also has made a strong pitch for Geely's headquarters.

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Link: http://www.thecarconnection.com/Auto_News/...175.A10162.html

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