China manufactures first car for US market

Updated: 2015-05-24 05:14

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York(China Daily USA)

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The first Chinese-made car for the US market -- a Volvo -- has rolled off the assembly line and will be available this summer.

The luxury sedan was manufactured on May 22 at the Volvo plant in southwest China's Chengdu city.

Volvo, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, is owned by the Chinese company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Geely purchased Volvo from the Ford Motor Co in 2010. Volvo has operated an assembly plant in Chengdu in Sichuan province since 2013.

“The car we will export from our Chengdu plant to the US is a long-wheel-base version of our Volvo S60 sedan, called the Volvo S60 Inscription. The first cars will be shipped soon and are expected to reach US dealerships in late summer 2015,” said Volvo spokesman Stefan Elfstrom in an e-mail.

Along with the S60 Inscription, the Chengdu plant makes a similar model for Chinese customers. The Chengdu plant is the first manufacturing plant of Volvo in China. Volvo expects to send about 5,000 S60 Inscriptions per year to the US.

"The move to export Volvos will be a big one symbolically for China. If successful in the market, it would prove that China can compete here. It also would demonstrate that American buyers are willing to purchase cars from China, which could encourage other multinationals to ship product from there to the US," David Zoia, editorial director at WardsAuto told China Daily in an e-mail.

Sean McAlinden, executive vice-president of research and chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, also sees a Volvo made in China and sold in the US as a watershed moment for China's auto industry.

"Currently, China does not export any world-class luxury cars which require the highest levels of design and assembly quality. If a Chinese S60 succeeds, it means other luxury vehicle from China can be accepted in the world market. Much respect will be gained. The US market is the most openly competitive in the world,” he said.

Earlier this month Volvo said it would invest $500 million to build its first US plant in South Carolina that it hopes eventually will employ 4,000 people. South Carolina beat four other states, including Georgia, which also made a hard sell for the automaker. The plant is initially expected to make about 100,000 vehicles a year, with the first ones ready in 2018, according to Volvo. The site is about 40 miles northwest of downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and about 30 miles from the Port of Charleston.