More Chinese-made cars may be on the way to the U.S. after all. Not many, but some.
Volvo plans to start importing Chinese-made S60L to the U.S. next year, Reuters reports, based on an unnamed 'senior Volvo executive.' Volvo CEO Hakkan Samuelssen told a press briefing last year that the company was considering the move.
Dean Shaw, a Volvo vice president in the U.S., wouldn't be specific. 'We have only confirmed we will eventually export cars from China but not when, which models or where to,' he told USA TODAY.
The S60L is a long-wheelbase version of the luxury brand's midsize sedan. Long wheelbases -- which can offer substantially more room in the rear seat area -- are popular in China where many owners of upscale cars are chauffeured. BMW even sells a stretched version of its compact 3-series sport sedan there.
But many U.S. buyers also opt for the stretch versions of larger premium sedans that are offered here by brands such as Jaguar, BMW and Audi. And unlike some of these substantially longer cars, the S60L has a wheelbase about three inches longer, enough to be noticed in rear room, but not a limo.
Volvo, the Swedish carmaker known best for leadership in safety, was bought by Ford in 2000 and then sold by Ford to China's Geely in 2010. Reuters says Volvo is trying to beat its sales target in China, the world's largest auto market, by 13% this year.
Its sales have shrunk in the U.S., however, and if the S60L arrives, the numbers likely will be small. Volvo has sold just 8,884 of the Belgian-made S60 regular sedans in the U.S. so far this year, down 13% from a year ago.
A few years ago, the possibility of cheap Chinese cars flooding the American market was one of the most talked-about issues in the auto industry. Many thought that the Chinese, powered by cheap labor, would follow the example of Japan in the 1960s and flood the U.S. with inexpensive competition.
The first Chinese-made car to be sold in the U.S. was the Coda -- a four-door, all-electric car made in China on contract from Los Angeles-based Coda Automotive. It began sales in 2012 in California, but was discontinued last year
There have been no others and the Chinese auto market has been growing so fast that there hasn't been much excess capacity that would lend itself to export.
Meanwhile, foreign car brands have proven very popular in China. Most major makers have partnered with Chinese companies to make vehicles there for the China market, with General Motors and Volkswagen among the leaders.