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'08 auto show adds 5 Chinese manufacturers
August 29, 2007

BY TOM WALSH

FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

In a bold display of intent to become major players on the global automotive scene, five Chinese vehicle manufacturers will bring cars and trucks to Detroit for display at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in January.

Only two Chinese automakers have previously exhibited at the Detroit show -- Geely Automobile Co. in 2006 and Changfeng Group this year.


Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which stages the annual show, said Tuesday that the five Chinese exhibitors will be located in Michigan Hall, a level below the show's main floor in Cobo Center. Two European ultra-luxury carmakers will also be first-time exhibitors, Alberts said.

He would not reveal names of the new exhibitors, but said all are contractually committed.

Despite the major Chinese presence at Cobo, don't look for Chinese-made cars to be sold in the United States until at least late 2008, with 2009 or 2010 more likely.

Paul Lienert, president of Global Auto Systems in Dexter, said the first vehicle from China could be a midsize sedan from Jinbei Brilliance, likely called BS6, that's already on limited sale in Europe.

"I don't think we'll see the Chery/Dodge car here before '09. Nothing from Geely before then either. Possibly we may see an MG from the new Nanjing-SAIC marriage in '08 or '09," Lienert said.

Chrysler signed a deal in July with Chery Automobile of Wuhu, China, to jointly develop a small car to be built in China and sold globally. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. is reportedly negotiating a merger with Nanjing Auto, which is building MG sports cars.

Strong interest from China and other emerging automotive markets -- look for an Indian automaker in the 2009 Detroit show -- is increasing pressure to expand Cobo Center. At 700,000 square feet, Cobo is among the smaller venues to host a major international auto show.

Alberts said DADA remains hopeful about Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano's plan to expand Cobo to 970,000 square feet. Meanwhile, the auto dealers are exploring a smaller-scale proposal to add about 30,000 square feet, which could happen in the next two or three years.

Competing shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are trying to encroach on Detroit's dominant share of media attention and major product unveilings. Detroit was merely a regional show until DADA transformed it into the North American International Auto
 

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So Chery and Shuanghuan will be there. Who are the others ?
 
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