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SAIC puts U.S. ambitions on hold amid Trump uncertainty
Bloomberg | 2017/4/21

SAIC Motor Corp., China's biggest automaker, has delayed plans to export vehicles to the United States because of uncertainties about President Donald Trump's trade policies, even as another state-owned rival stays on track to enter the market.

The Shanghai-based carmaker will start implementing its export strategy only after gaining clarity about the U.S. trade policy, said Michael Yang, executive director of SAIC Motor's international department, at a briefing Wednesday in Shanghai. The company now is prioritizing the European Union as a market over the U.S., he said.

"Eventually we aim to have all, but at the moment we are focusing on" China and then Europe, Yang said. "The reason is the í«climate change' after the new presidency."

The decision of SAIC Motor, which has joint ventures in China with General Motors  and Volkswagen AG, comes even as Trump said he declined to start a trade war with China because the country is taking steps to rein in the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.

But concerns remain as U.S. trade relations with China were a cornerstone of Trump's campaign as he accused the nation of unfair trade practices and threatened to slap a levy on Chinese products.

SAIC Motor's wait-and-see attitude contrasts with that of Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., which is moving ahead with its plan to start sales of its Trumpchi brand in the United States.

GAC, the sixth-largest automaker in China by volume, is "actively preparing" to establish its research center in the U.S. while conducting a preliminary study of the North American market, said Yu Jun, general manager of the company's Trumpchi unit.

The company aims to enter the U.S. no later than 2019 to help build Trumpchi into an international brand, he said.

Other Chinese brands, such as Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co. and Volvo Car Corp. owner Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., have voiced similar ambitions as far back as a decade ago, but so far have yet to achieve the goal.

GAC has been laying the groundwork for its U.S. entry for several years, featuring its GS5 sedan in a Transformers movie in 2014 and airing commercials for its GS7 SUV on giant electronic billboards in New York's Times Square in November.

SAIC Motor also has a presence in the United States. It has a trading company based in Detroit and a research center and a venture capital investment firm in the Silicon Valley. The automaker's joint venture with GM exports China-made Buick Envision crossovers to the United States.

MG, Roewe
The company unveiled a sports coupe concept under its MG brand -- the beginning of a design revamp that it hopes will lift the marque's profile among both local and overseas consumers.

SAIC Motor dominates China, accounting for one of five vehicles sold in the country last year. It also owns the Roewe brand, under which it introduced an Internet-connected SUV with Alibaba Group Holding.

GAC, which has joint ventures with Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Honda Motor Co., created its Trumpchi brand in 2010 after being a production partner for foreign carmakers for more than a decade.

The company nearly doubled its delivery of Trumpchi vehicles last year to more than 380,000 units on the popularity of its GS4 and GS8 SUVs. The automaker says it expects overseas markets to account for 10 percent of Trumpchi sales by 2020.

"Trumpchi's goal is to become a world-class Chinese brand," said Yu. "And we would like to make our research, production and sales global."

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