Chinese cars may hit U.S. market through Volvo sale image

Could Geely’s deal to buy Sweden’s Volvo from Ford signal that finally Americans will be able to get their hands on some of China’s best cars?

It’s an interesting question that Automotive News put to Volvo dealers around the U.S., who sound mighty receptive to the idea.

A couple years ago, the auto press couldn’t ask enough questions about how soon Chinese cars would hit American shores. The Chinese auto industry was growing explosively, but Chinese internal demand was so robust that there was no reason to bring them to the U.S. Plus, there were doubts about whether the Chinese could meet U.S. quality and safety standards without a lot of outside help.

But Geely’s purchase of Volvo looks like it could be China’s ticket into becoming a first-world player:

Ford just said it expects to a sign a definitive deal in the first quarter, and turn Volvo over to Geely in the second. Chinese cars would be cheaper than those made in lots of other places in he world, and if Geely learns from Volvo, it could lick the quality issues and safety issues.

The notion of selling Chinese cars “sounds appealing,” Mark O’Steen, owner of O’Steen Volvo in Jacksonville, Fla., told Automotive News.

“I’ll try anything. It is just another niche that we don’t cover, and hopefully they do have some potential in the United States.” Another dealer, Donald Latham, owner of Parkway Volvo in Wilmington, N.C., says he’d “be receptive” if Volvo dealers were offered a Geely franchise.

It’s hard to tell how Geely labeled cars would mix with Volvos in the showrooms. Volvo is an upscale brand. Many Mercedes-Benz dealers have also been selling the little Smart cars, but sales people obviously wouldn’t make as much in commissoins per sale selling a cheap car as a luxury model,and thus might not be as enthsiastic about the idea.