Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Slovenia, Europe
Changfeng Motor Company enetring US market.
A Chinese carmaker is trying to convince a pioneering West Michigan auto distributor to join forces and help bring Chinese vehicles to America.
Changfeng Motor Company is courting Peter Cook, the first person to bring Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and Mazda to West Michigan and distribute vehicles in five states.
Changfeng Motor Company is headquartered in Hunan, a central province in China. It was established in China in 1950, owned predominately by the Chinese government, and trades on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
The company is known mostly for its small SUVs, which are used a lot by the Chinese Army.
Its Web site states it has two big automobile factories and four auto spare parts plants. It puts its goal for manufacturing at 200,000 vehicles annually and it wants to sell some of them in the U.S.
The company's chairman, Li Jianxin, met with Cook at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year.
"There were about five Chinese guys there, they had an interpreter, they looked me up, they found out my background, they wanted to know if I'd be interested in helping them bring the Chinese car over," Cook told 24 Hour News 8. "They want me to start up a distributorship. I said, 'I'm too old but I might be the head guy and hire all the young guys to do the work.'"
Cook is 94 but still is energized when he thinks of another pioneering business venture he can undertake with his team.
"The Chinese like old people. They respect senior citizens," Cook said.
24 Hour News 8 learned a second meeting was held last month at Cook's Maple Hill Auto Center in Oshtemo Township, this time with the CEO of Changfeng Motor Company.
The Chinese automaker is pushing Cook's team to come to China to see the factory and the vehicles they make.
"I don't know what may happen," said Cook.
Cook is deciding whether to send his representatives to China this fall. They told 24 Hour News 8 that everything right now is in the exploratory, talking stage.
Changfeng Motor Company of China wants to start up operations in Michigan.
A former state lawmaker, attorney Marc Shulman, is working with the Chinese to make it happen. He told 24 Hour News 8 the company is visiting cities in Michigan to possibly locate an auto plant here.
"They are interested in making Michigan an opportunity for them to build vehicles or assemble the vehicles here. Yes, absolutely," Shulman told 24 Hour News 8. "They looked in the Grand Rapids area, and they've been in Kalamazoo and through much of southeast Michigan as well...Detroit area, Flint area, Saginaw area."
As far as what kind of vehicle Changfeng would build in the United States, Shulman said, "A car that has strong fuel economy, that's reliable, and also, you know, is green, in terms of the environment."
24 Hour News 8 broke the story that Changfeng is in talks with Peter Cook of Grand Rapids, a well-known foreign auto distributor. The Chinese company wants Cook and his team to help bring its vehicles to the U.S.
"The discussions have centered around Cook Holdings actually providing the distribution channels, setting up potentially the dealerships, the warranty, and things of that nature that would be needed to have a successful North American operation," said Shulman.
"It's questionable whether or not the cars will actually be able to be manufactured here in the United States by 2010 but certainly to be able to be final assembled here and then to be sold, it certainly is a possibility. But you're probably looking at a few years further out than that."