All Maine Matters

September 2006



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All Maine Matters

Because All of Maine DOES Matter!
Vol. 1, No. 9      September 2006 FREE

Made In China?
by Bob Sanders

The more appropriate question would be "What isn't made in China?" In the field of auto repair, we are seeing a slow but deliberate increase in the number of aftermarket parts that are stamped "Made in China". While the amount of parts that are made in China is disturbing, what is even more disturbing is the fact that these components are of very high quality. They easily compare to anything made not just in the US, but anywhere else for that matter. But there is one sector of the economy that up until now has escaped the onslaught of the Chinese invasion: automobiles.

All of that is gonna change in the very near future. Nanjing Automotive, a Chinese automaker, bought the MG brand name for 100 million dollars from the former British automaker after its assets were in receivership. MG's hard assets were negligible in value. What Nanjing bought was the MG label and the legal right to sell under the MG banner.

They have plans to completely revamp the MG, totally modernizing the mechanical and electrical systems of the line while capitalizing on the nostalgia factor and the beauty of the MG. In other words, they will build an MG that will actually run and look absolutely stunning doing it.

How am I so sure of this? China has a much more mature auto manufacturing industry than most people realize.

You might expect Chinese automobiles to be archaic versions of Communist era Russian cars. You know, those big, ugly, lumbering hulks of iron that would have as much appeal in the American market as a Yugo. If you were to see a minivan manufactured by Brilliance China Automotive, another Chinese auto manufacturer, winding down your street you would never pick it out from other minivans except for the unfamiliar logos plastered on them. They are fuel injected, with a full complement of creature comforts and engine control systems, in just about every sense a thoroughly modern automobile.

Although these vehicles do not meet all the EPA and FHTSA requirements for the US market in their present production configuration, this hurdle could be passed by retooling their product line. It is the opinion of auto industry execs that the Chinese auto industry got up to speed so quickly by buying technology and components from other Pacific Rim manufacturers, namely Toyota.

Brilliance has a working arrangement with BMW to accelerate  the level of technology in their vehicles, to bring them up to the same plane of their worldwide peers. Brilliance's assembly plants are as modern as any in the world, and they have located them in areas where there are pools of educated workers available, and the Chinese culture, just like the Japanese, naturally lends itself to producing nothing but the very best quality their systems allow them to achieve.

And the Chinese will have pricing power when they invade the American market.The minivans that Brilliance China produces sell for under 10 grand in equivalent Yankee dollars. They would be priced higher in the American market, but like all Chinese goods, they would come in at an extremely aggressive price structure. For decades the Japanese Juggernaut has been competing very successfully in the American auto market. Soon the Chinese marauders will be giving everyone in the auto manufacturing business, including the Japanese, a corporate case of ulcers.

Bob Sanders is a Master Auto Technician who works in Brewer.

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