It might be a great time for U.S. car companies to think about the export business. That is, if any importing countries have money to buy. It’s an even better time for them—Ford and GM in particular—to start thinking about importing the good, fuel-efficient cars they already produce in Europe. Why not Mondeos and Opels for us in the U.S.?
Why, you may ask, can’t the successful European cars simply be imported and rebadged here for our consumption? The main obstacle seems to be our regulatory, safety, and emission standards which vary, sometimes in minor details, from the European rules and from state to state. Certification here is expensive, and the red tape extensive. In a time of crisis, one might think, the government should be able to set aside some of these barriers.
The other alternative is to make them here. Ford has been working hard to get its next-gen small cars here and retooling its truck plants here and in Canada. Cars like the Mondeo, which won the European Car of the Year award, are better built than our counterparts and better suited to the burgeoning U.S. market for smaller, more efficient Euro-styled cars. In fact, we hear the Mondeo will provide the platform for the new Fusion, plus other Ford, Mercury and Lincoln products.
Ford also has a successful recent history of exporting its cars to China, namely the Escape and the Lincoln Navigator, as well as the Mondeo, S-Max and the Transit. Ford Motor China sold over 90,000 vehicles there last year, 47% more than in 2007. Chrysler? Forget it.
So Ford has gotten the message and recently decided, as we reported, to import the new Fiesta, a good car that Chrysler and GM can’t match with their product lines.
What is GM doing? Well, with the convoluted genius that only this company can muster, they are rebadging their award-winning Opel Insignia and sending it to China as a Buick Regal. We know the Chinese love Buicks, so it’s another excuse for GM to indulge its addiction to rebranding and rebadging. They now have a product line of maybe 9 cars with 180 names. The Insignia may also be coming here as the Saturn Aura (if Saturn is still in existence).
If this administration really believes in the global marketplace, now would be the time to ease the overly fussy restrictions on imports and provide incentives for exporting our cars to China, India, and wherever the market will take them. Yes, we can.
Which of the Big Three’s cars currently available overseas would you consider purchasing if it went on sale in the U.S.?