The American car market is one of the most coveted in the world—and unsurprisingly, it's also one of the most difficult car markets to break into. As of right now, only a handful of foreign car manufacturers have been able to survive the cutthroat world of American car buyers.
You might recognize many European and Asian car brands on dealership lots. We Americans do love our Toyotas, BMWs, and Volkswagens, right? On US streets, you'll see a wide variety of countries represented, including Germany, Britain, Italy, and Japan.
One country that's conspicuously absent from that list is China. Considering how many Chinese companies make goods Americans love, you have to wonder why we aren't buying Chinese car brands at the dealership.
Truth be told, there's a lot of reasons why you won't see a Chery or a Geely. Here's why we probably won't be seeing any Chinese car brands on American streets anytime soon.
Let's talk about Chinese car brands, and why there's potential there.
Chinese manufacturing has reached a fever pitch, and what Americans might not realize is that this manufacturing trend has also reached into the car world. China's car manufacturing has managed to create a slew of brands that range from the plain commuter car to downright luxurious.
Many of the cars have become known for being techy in appearance, and some have even become known for being hybrid cars—such as the stylish GAC E-Jet. Others, such as Geely's Emgrand X7, have amenities that could give Toyota a run for their run.
Most of the cars are designed to be compact enough for city living and to be fuel-efficient. Saying that these cars don't have a potential audience in the states just doesn't make sense.
China has had its eye on American dealerships for a while.
If you're wondering if China is just disinterested in having American buyers, think again. This country has been very interested in breaking into American markets for well over a decade.
Despite interests being there, it's been taking China a while to actually make a move. Only recently has China made its presence known to American markets through Chinese car brands getting debuts at American car shows.
A lot of the reason why we're not driving vehicles from Chinese car brands deals with American stigma.
When it comes to buying a car, Americans are choosy. In fact, not only are they choosy, they are downright obsessive with finding the most reliable car brands out there and buying the best possible cars for their money.
The problem is that Chinese manufacturing has a serious stigma in the United States. Due to the fact that Chinese manufacturers are seen as lower quality or unreliable, many Americans are leery of car companies from China without ever actually trying them out.
That reputation may have been somewhat deserved.
J.D Power's Asian publications noted that Chinese car companies generally underperformed in terms of quality, reliability, and safety. This has been true when it came to both Chinese national buyers and foreign buyers who had bought them as well.
Chinese cars have more problems arise within the first two to six months of a car's lifespan than other foreign makes. So, maybe their reputation for poor workmanship is deserved.
However, that's not the only reason why Chinese brands aren't seen stateside. The quality issue goes far deeper than you'd think.
In the fairly recent past, there was also valid concern about Chinese cars' safety standards.
One of the reasons why Geelys and other Chinese companies are car brands you won't see in America deals with safety. Federal standards require cars to be able to pass tests that ensure passenger safety—more specifically, they have to have somewhat decent marks on car crash safety tests.
Unfortunately, Chinese car brands went viral after their crash tests came out abysmally poor. Some cars even had the chagrin of getting the worst safety ratings possible. As a result, cars from China aren't actually legally drivable in the United States.
Thankfully, Chinese car safety quality has become far better in recent years. Even so, they don't always have the safety standards necessary to make it to major markets.
Their emissions ratings are also an issue.
American emission standards are much, much higher than Chinese emission's ratings. Currently, most Chinese car brands do not pass emissions tests by federal standards.
Some do, though. Chinese hybrid models, for example, have great emissions ratings, partly due to their excellent gas mileage. Even so, the emission's ratings continue to be an obstacle for these car manufacturers trying to make it stateside.
At this current time, many car brands from China are still working to catch up to other countries' standards.
China's car manufacturing industry is relatively new when compared to other countries like Germany, Italy, or Japan. As one would expect, it will take time to hammer out issues with the country's overall approach to manufacturing.
Assuming that car companies from China will be able to magically catch up to companies that have been around for decades is pretty ludicrous. Chinese car brands seem to know this, and have decided to take it slow while they work their way up.
In recent years, China has started to partner up with mainstream car brands to create their newer lines.
Savvy as they can be, Chinese car companies have started to reach out to international car brands like Volvo for collaboration opportunities. By collaborating with heavy hitters, they're gaining knowledge, and also getting better protocols for their car manufacturing process.
Certain brands, including Geely and DAIC Group, recently approached American consumer groups to find out how they can engineer their cars to be up to code. It's clear they're making moves!
Their engineering processes are also changing rapidly.
When Chinese car brands first came to be, they were infamous for copying Japanese manufacturers—often to the point that parts would be totally interchangeable. Those years are gone. Chinese car companies are now showing a serious amount of innovation.
Slowly but surely, Chinese cars are getting a reputation for having a character all their own. That's actually a really good thing for them and for future buyers.
So, when it comes to seeing Chinese cars in America, it's actually because they have some catching up to do.
However, from what we've been seeing, the amount of catch up they need to do is decreasing at a breakneck speed. Things are sketchy now, but it's clearly not staying that way for long. In the future, they may make some of the most reliable cars and SUVs in the world.
All things considered, it's not really a question of why we're not seeing Chinese car brands on American streets; it's a question of how soon it'll happen.