Chinese-state-owned automaker GAC claims to be on the precipice of entering the US market. GAC revealed three new vehicles under its Trumpchi brand this week at the Detroit Auto Show, all of which hit upon current US trends. (Those trends just so happen to be big in China as well.) The company also announced its intentions to build a research and development facility somewhere in North America, with full details promised in the next few months.
First off, yes, the brand is actually called Trumpchi, and it predates Donald Trump's rise to political prominence by many years. The three models – the GS7 five-seat crossover, the EnSpirit plug-in hybrid concept, and the GE3 EV– appear to be in different stages of development. Styling for all three is a mixture of original and cribbed design bits. They're not ugly, but this isn't exactly a pretty bunch either. The GS7, for example, looks a bit like a scrunched version of the current Nissan Armada. The EnSpirit concept is vaguely reminiscent of the Tesla Model S and Model X, but it gets bonus points for eschewing the latter's falcon wing doors and instead has a cloth rollback roof, making it a combination of crossover, convertible, and sedan. Plus, our favorite part, it has a bonsai tree planted in the second row.
The GE3 crossover could have the best chance of coming here. The biggest hurdle for Chinese automakers entering the US market has always been meeting safety, emissions, and fuel economy standards that are growing ever stricter. Since the GE3 is an EV, it could avoid some of those issues. GAC is claiming nearly 200 miles of range for the GE3. If the small electric crossover could come in at a reasonable price, GAC may actually have a shot at bringing a car here.
GAC is no stranger to mass appeal and production. While the automaker is nearly unknown here in the US, it's one of the most popular brands in China. Last year, GAC sold about 380,000 vehicles. The company also has partnerships with Toyota, Honda, and FCA to build vehicles in China. Any one of those could potentially provide assistance with a US introduction. GAC vice president of design Zhang Fan said cars could be brought over as soon as 2018. While competition is good, it would be a big stretch to get something here that soon with no dealer network. Look for more news when the company establishes its new R&D facility.