China SUV maker Changfeng plans U.S. debut

DETROIT Mon Jan 8, 2007 7:50pm EST

DETROIT (Reuters) - Changfeng Group Co. Ltd. on Monday said it hopes to sell vehicles in the United States by the end of the decade, the latest Chinese automaker to stake its ambitions to the world's biggest car market.

Changfeng, a major SUV and pickup truck maker in the fast-growing Chinese market, unveiled two new models at the North American International Auto Show, a first step toward selling its vehicles in the United States.

Changfeng, which has a partnership with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.(7211.T), is looking to build other industry alliances, including a distribution network for the U.S. market, Li Jianxin, the company's chairman, said in a speech.

"We are also actively looking for collaboration opportunities with the major auto companies and suppliers in the world; many of them are right here in Detroit," Li said.

Changfeng exports to markets including the Middle East and Africa and plans to bring vehicles to North America, Li said, without specifying a time frame.

Changfeng plans to bring its small SUVs to the U.S. market in the next few years, Jianmin Yi, a planning executive with the company said through a translator.

The company's goal is to sell cars in the United States as soon as three years from now, he said. He said no discussions with potential dealers or sales representatives had begun yet.

Other Chinese ventures have announced plans to export to the U.S. market in recent years, although the timetable for the expected arrival of that next wave of low-cost cars has slipped.

Last year Geely Automobile Co. became the first Chinese automaker to use an appearance at the Detroit auto show to announce plans to sell in the U.S. market.

Entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin said this week he remains in negotiations with potential Chinese automakers aimed at bringing a Chinese-made car to the U.S. market.

DaimlerChrysler AG DCXGn.DE is also waiting for the Chinese government to approve a planned tie-up with Chery Automobile Co. for production of a new small car for sale in the United State, Europe and other markets.

Many analysts have said Chinese car makers face major hurdles in meeting U.S. safety requirements, addressing lingering quality concerns, and marketing to skeptical U.S. consumers.

Changfeng showed off its Leibao CS6 SUV and Feibao CT5 small pickup at the Detroit auto show.

The company also showed off a rhombus-shaped three-wheeled concept vehicle it said featured "pure biologic materials" inside to avoid "chemical contamination of the air inside the car."

Marketing materials for other Changfeng vehicles displayed the company's English-language motto: "Never makes you disappointed."

Mitsubishi has a 16 percent stake in Hunan Changfeng Motors, and has been in negotiations about increasing its investment, officials at the Chinese automaker said in November.

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