Remember when “Made in Japan” was synonymous with “complete and utter crap”? There are now people in these United States who bewail the loss of Japanese-sourced Camrys and Accords, which were supposedly “better” than the cars built by those same companies Stateside.
For a brief period after Japanese ascendancy, South Korean cars were dismissed as the worst kind of shoddily assembled crap. That doesn’t happen anymore: Daewoo has been subsumed by General Motors, Hyundai/Kia have proven themselves in the American market, and we simply haven’t heard from the rest.
So now it’s China’s night in the barrel, and the first circulation of the upcoming fecal cyclone is on the radar:
Volvo Car started exporting S60 sedans built in China to the United States last week as part of its plan to expand sales and market share globally.
The vehicles, which are produced at Volvo’s plant in the southwest China city of Chengdu, will be transported to Shanghai for shipment to the U.S.
The S60 will arrive at dealership showrooms in the United States in about two months, Volvo said. The company did not indicate how many vehicles it intends to export.
Volvo’s parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China, has been calling the shots for five years now, and this is not a new S60: it’s the same one Volvo has been building in Sweden, in Belgium, and even in Malaysia fercrissake. I suspect that none of Volvo’s American customers will notice the difference. Some of their avowed non-customers, however, are already up in arms at the announcement. An example:
When you have situations like with Takata, a company that’s from a culture where shipping crap-that-will-kill-people should be a problem, and it ends up happening anyway and is subsequently covered up, I’d be pretty leery of buying a product originating in a place where the existing corporate culture is absolutely renowned for viewing basic competence in construction as an afterthought. No matter how much Volvo tries to make sure it’s not a problem, I’m not quite ready to stake my family’s life on their having figured it out.
Takata, of course, is Japanese, so this translates to “If I can’t trust Japan, I sure as hell ain’t gonna trust China.” Not everyone, however, is quite so adamant:
There is nothing magical about Chinese assembly. Either it will be carefully managed and will work fine, or it will be sloppily managed and turn out a lot of defective products. We’ve seen plenty of examples of both in China, as well as in America (was a 1981 Cadillac Fleetwood a shining example of assembly quality?). Actually, I’d expect this first batch of Volvos to be impeccably assembled, because Volvo will have something to prove.
And at least it’s coming over under an established brand name. Geely hasn’t tried to sell any of its own designs in the States, and probably won’t for a while, although I suspect some hipper-than-thou Americans would queue up to buy London taxis — which vehicle Geely also owns. Then again, this incident alone could keep Geely-branded cars at bay for another couple of years at least.