Chinese automakers could also endanger the U.S. auto industry’s dealer franchise system if they mirror Tesla’s practice of selling directly to customers, according to the chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Tesla, the California-based electric startup and currently the largest producer of premium electric cars, sells its cars without the use of franchised dealers and owns the sales outlets. NADA, which stands behind some 16,000 new-car dealers, has fought the Palo Alto company’s decision of using the direct sales practice.
“It’s in the back of everybody’s minds at this point, just to make sure that we should talk to the Chinese as their cars evolve,” David Westcott, a North Carolina auto dealer, said yesterday at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit. “Dealers won’t fight having those cars come in. Will we fight to make sure there’s a franchise system? Yes.”
The big U.S. automakers are also closely watching the Chinese carmakers and their global expansion ambitions, which put the companies and their government on the verge of entering the U.S. market. According to David Schoch, president of Ford’s Asia Pacific operations, Great Wall Motor Co., China’s biggest maker of sport-utility vehicles, is credited as having the biggest chance to rapidly expand abroad.