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Chinese-Built Cars Are Coming To the US Next Year 431

cartechboy (2660665) writes "Made In China." It's a sticker we all know too well here in the U.S., and yet, it seems not everything we buy is made in China. To date, there haven't been Chinese-built cars in the U.S., but we keep hearing they are coming. Now it seems it's about to become a reality, as Chinese-built Volvos will be arriving in the U.S. as early as 2015. The first model to arrive will be the S60L. The payoff for Volvo if it manages to convince buyers that its cars built in China are just as good as those currently built in Europe is vast. Not only will it save on production costs, but it will help buffer against exchange rate fluctuations. Volvo's planning to make China a manufacturing hub, and that makes sense since it's now owned by Chinese parent company Geely. But will Chinese-built cars be just as good as European-built cars, and will consumers be able to tell the difference?
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Chinese-Built Cars Are Coming To the US Next Year

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  • Tonka Tough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @01:02PM (#47255449) Homepage Journal
    I'm told that Chinese manufacturers make things exactly as flimsy as their client wants them. Pay more, get more. Did Nintendo consoles lose their Tonka Tough reputation [] when Nintendo moved manufacturing to PRC?
  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @01:07PM (#47255497) Homepage Journal

    Actually, the Chinese will build to any spec. If they can build it on the same quality requirements for cheaper, you tell them you want it to your quality spec and you pay less.

    This is unlike Germany, where the only quality level is "high", and you pay for German manufacture. German manufacturers won't provide you with a lower cost-tier and a lesser-duty-cycle product.

    By the by, quality is the degree to which a deliverable satisfies requirements. A car that falls apart after 5 years isn't any higher quality than a car that runs for 50 years, if you're going to replace either in 5 years anyway. If the former is much cheaper to own and maintain for the first 5 years than the latter, then the former is of higher quality; if the latter is cheaper to own and maintain, then the latter is over-engineered and can be stripped back to last 5 years and cost much less, better satisfying quality requirements.

    Many of us want cars which will satisfy a low total cost for acceptable function. The car should last longer to avoid a new expensive purchase, and require minimal maintenance to retain its important functions (reliability, safety, comforts, emissions, and so on). Our quality standards are the cheapest thing we can get for the presumed function and comfort level, which is why economy cars are so popular in the US: they don't save very much on gas, they don't drive as well as something with a V6 or V8 and a sports suspension, but they're cheap and they tend to have a good duty cycle (even GM's ecotec engines are built to last, never mind the newer non-Ford engines Mazda has been putting in the 3).

  • Re:Bets, anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @01:20PM (#47255625)
    If Geely bought Volvo to take Volvo's corporate culture, safety, and quality and apply it to Geely then good for them.

    If Geely bought Volvo and took Geely's corporate culture, safety, and quality and applied to to Volvo, then that sucks.

    Unfortunately while I'm sure that Geely would love to claim that it did the former, I expect that in the long term, they did the latter.

    This is common, even when companies rename themselves post-acquisition. Current Sears is the Kmart corporation that bought Sears and renamed itself, and they're now in the endgame when Kmart crappiness is being applied to what historically had been strong Sears brands like Kenmore and Craftsman. Allied Signal bought Honeywell and renamed itself to Honeywell, and the Allied Signal perspective on "synergy" (translated into layoffs to be 'lean' that have meant that things get missed or dropped because the experienced employees were cut so the projects come in late and over-budget) persists to this day.

    The only way that this kind of sale or merger works is if the working parts are left as-is or expanded at the expense of those of the purchasing entity. And most companies that end up big enough to do the buying are too proud to leave them intact.
  • Re:Whelp... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @01:25PM (#47255687)

    From friends of mine who have done Chinese imports, there are times when the first prototypes are of excellent quality... then after a run or two, shortcuts are made, metal is specced cheaper, the full welds you are paying for get replaced with spot welds, the stainless steel alloy needed for strength gets replaced by pot metal, etc.

    Then there is the China rare earth issue. China has it set up that you pay a lot more to export the rare earths than to have one of their factories produce your goods.

    We already had China try coming to US shores with cars before. In 2008, Chery was going to have a dealership set up in Austin... but the economy tanked and they scuttled their plans.

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @01:47PM (#47255923)

    Most (if not all) garlic in the US now comes from China, thanks to their dumping of garlic.

    Garlic is a major crop in Washington State. But, you can always shop at the local food coop or farmer's market for "certified organic" which will definitely not be a Chinese product.

  • Re:Bets, anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @02:34PM (#47256421)

    Care to specify which older cars, or at least how old they are? Pre-emissions (i.e. 1960's) you may have a point. At least your basic cars were bog simple, and the old Detroit iron was such overkill that you really didn't care if a cylinder or two wasn't working. They also needed more maintenance and handled like pigs. Then somebody decided that opaque city air was a bad idea. 70's emissions compliant cars were such insane nightmares of vacuum tubing that you couldn't see the engine. Ever try to trace down a leak in a vacuum system? Then there was that nightmare of things that controlled or were controlled by the vacuum system. It was basically a cobbled together mechanical computer.

    The best thing to ever happened to cars was fuel injection and ECU's. Later they used computer control for those decadent automatic transmissions and that was a good idea. They also vastly increased tire life, made spark plugs that lasted over 100k miles, and all kinds of other stuff to reduce maintenance. The problem is that, especially in the last ten years, they've introduced all sort of unnecessary crap that kills the reliability and increases maintenance costs. How many networked unnecessary electronic boxes do you need? I want the engine and the tranny to run, and screw everything else. Power sliding doors on mini-vans? I cursed it and predicted it would be a problem when my wife bought her 2006 Sienna. The chickens have now come home to roost and the one good thing is I think I can completely disable the power crap by cutting a cable. Imagine people having to use their hands? Power seats? Unless you have a physical handicap you should be able to adjust your seat position without electro-mechanical assistance!. No really, I've heard old-timers talk about it.

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @03:41PM (#47257111)

    The build quality of modern vehicles has little to do with where it is made. The vast majority of assembly is done by machine (with the exception of Porsche and some other high end cars that are still built largely by hand). What determines reliability is how the cars are engineered.

    Painting with very broad brush strokes, here is my experience with cars:

    Japanese cars: Simple design, minimalist engineering, extremely reliable and cheap to operate
    European cars: Complex design, somewhat over engineered, reliable but expensive to maintain
    American cars: Poor design, not durable (in my experience), not very reliable but cheap to fix

    Quick anecdotal evidence: I was taking my car in for some routine maintenance and they are giving me a drive home in the customer shuttle (a Chrysler PT Cruiser). I look and notice that it has about 80.000 miles on it and ask the guy driving it if it has been reliable. He tells me that they had to replace the motor mounts 3 times so far. 3 times! That, folks, is inferior design. My Honda has 110,000 miles and the original motor mounts. Original engine and tranny for that matter. Runs like a Swiss watch.

    I'm not suggesting that all American cars are junk but I travel a lot and rent a lot of cars and my perception is that Japanese and European cars are far superior. I have driven nearly everything on the road.

    What astounds me is that Chevy can build a fantastic car like the Corvette and yet nearly everything else is sub par. Ok, the new Malibu is a big improvement...I'll give them that. Ford? Well, the Mustang finally got rid of the live rear axle suspension. Now they are only about 10 years behind every other sports car on the road. Chrysler? They have some innovative designs but the quality continues to be horrible on balance.

    None of this is a knock on the assembly workers. If the cars are well engineered they will last, whether they are made in Japan, Europe, USA or China.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @04:28PM (#47257647)

    The first few shipments of Chinese Volvos will probably have been built by people who know there will be...consequences, if they don't do an exemplary job. And then every car will have been inspected in detail by other people who know they'd better have an exit strategy for themselves and their family if a lemon sneaks through.

    But once they've got other auto makers locked into a race to the bottom nobody can win without a ready supply of slaves, standards will change. This is a country that shipped poison dog food and children's toys laced with lead and other heavy metals. The only thing they worry about is getting caught.

    I love my family. I'll never put them in a Chinese-made car.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats