Businessweek reports that Brilliance (yes, that Brilliance) plans to have cars (possibly the Saibao, above) for sale in the U.S. next year for around $20,000. Phoenix, Arizona-based Autokam is behind the import plan and a Flash animation on their Web page says to expect Brilliance products this fall.
Digging around a bit on Autokam's Web site you'll find an Oct. 2006 article from "Dealer" magazine where Autokam founder David Shelburg talks about the status of crash and emissions tests and the difficulties of importing Chinese-made cars. Shelburg also shares his candid opinion of "Automotive News" publisher and editor in chief Keith Crain. "I'm not going to get along with that SOB if it kills me."
[Sources: Businessweek via China Car Times, Autokam, Dealer magazine, ChinaCar USA]
Shelburg also talks a bit about the competition's plans to import cars from China including Malcolm Bricklin, for which Shelburg once worked during Bricklin's Subaru phase. Funny how all things automotive seem connected, isn't it?
In the interview, Shelburg says he's been working since 1992 to bring cars over from China and has been putting the Brilliance Saibao through emissions and crash tests since 2005. Results from those tests, Shelburg says, have led to numerous improvements in the car's quality, performance and safety. If all goes according to plan, Autokam, in partnership with China Car USA, will have the Brilliance Saibao for sale first, followed by the Europa, Hover SUV, Lobo hatchback and M-2 models.
It's hard to say if Autokam can be the first importer of Chinese cars, but what's very clear is that they are coming, they will be inexpensive and regardless of their quality and safety credentials, will put pressure on already established brands. When? Who knows?