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Chinese Cars a No-Show in 2009: India Could Beat China to It

In an unforgettable year for the U.S. auto industry one of the most notable things about 2009 was something that didn't happen - there still aren't any Chinese cars for sale in the United States, and after many delays, the timing on Chinese cars is still fuzzy.

Interestingly, it looks as if vehicles made in India, another growing automotive market, could make it to the United States in 2010, beating the Chinese to it. The front-runners are small, diesel-powered pickups built by India's Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. -

Cars from China are inevitable, but a lot of factors have combined to delay their coming to the United States, including what's widely described as a desire among Chinese automakers to "get it right" and start off on the right foot with U.S. consumers, with cars that will meet or exceed expectations for quality and safety.

In addition, disruption among would-be partners in the United States, including bankruptcy earlier this year for General Motors and Chrysler, put off would-be joint ventures. For instance, Chrysler was in a partnership with China's Chery Automobile Co. For a while that put Chery in the lead finally to bring Chinese cars to the U.S. market. That came unglued along with Chrysler itself.

Yang Jian, managing editor of Automotive News China, this week posted a really good review of the misfires so far in getting Chinese cars to North America. That includes what's turned out to be a problematic strategy of starting out in Mexico first, before entering the more demanding U.S. market.

Meanwhile, according to Global Vehicles U.S.A., Alpharetta, Ga., the would-be importer of Mahindra pickups expects to start U.S. sales in a few months, in the spring of 2010. That date has already been pushed back a couple of times, pending approval for U.S. safety and emissions regulations, but that's the latest plan.

Photo: Global Vehicles

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