Chinese automaker GAC returning to Detroit auto show

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. will return to the North American International Auto Show in 2017, as it looks to enter the U.S. market.

The Chinese automaker debuted an SUV called the GS4 in 2015 but skipped this year’s show in January. That’s despite announcing ambitions last year to begin selling in the United States by 2017.

“GAC Group’s return to NAIAS is very exciting for our show as it underscores the significant coverage and impact automakers receive in markets across the globe when unveiling products at our show,” 2017 NAIAS Chairman Sam Slaughter said in a news release Monday.

GAC is expanding its presence from 2015, show officials said. The company will move from the atrium area of Cobo Center to a 5,500-square-foot area on the main floor of the Detroit convention center.

An auto show spokesman declined to comment on if the company plans to unveil a vehicle at the show, referring questioning to GAC. A GAC spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment.

“GAC Motor’s market share in China increased following the world debut of the GS4 two years ago and was a direct result of the international coverage we received,” GAC Group Vice Chairman President Zeng Qinghong said in the news release. “As we look to establish ourselves as a global brand, we are optimistic we can gain more momentum following the announcements we will make this coming January in Detroit.”

The announcement of GAC’s return to the show comes less than a week after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV hosted GAC chairman Zhang Fangyou and a group of Chinese dignitaries at its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills. GAC and Fiat Chrysler are partners in a join venture in China that produces Jeeps for that market.

Wu Song, general manager of GAC Motor, a brand subsidiary of GAC, in April said the company would like Fiat Chrysler to help it enter the United States. He told Reuters on the sidelines of the Beijing auto show then that, “Chrysler’s development in China required our support. Now for GAC Motor’s development in the U.S. we also hope for Chrysler’s support and help.”

A Fiat Chrysler spokesman last week said the visit and a meeting “was completely focused on the market in China,” and the possibilities of the automaker helping GAC enter the U.S. “were not discussed.” The company said Hu had the opportunity to view the major products in Jeep’s portfolio for the Chinese market.

Chinese automakers have had difficulty entering the U.S. due to stricter safety and emissions standards as well as other issues, including a lack of a dealership network.

General Motors Co. will become the first domestic automaker to import a vehicle produced in China to the U.S., when its Buick Envision crossover beings arriving in the coming weeks.

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