HAAH Automotive Holdings, which is planning to bring Zotye vehicles from China to the U.S. next year, says it has reached a North American distribution deal with another Chinese automaker, Chery Automobile Co.
A U.S.-assembled premium SUV from Chery will be sold and serviced under the brand name Vantas as soon as late 2021, HAAH said in a statement Monday. Canada sales are part of the plan.
U.S. production will begin with semi-knockdown kits. The plan is to eventually transition to full manufacturing, Chris Hosford, a spokesman for HAAH, said in an email. The company is scouting a number of states, including Michigan, for a plant, which would employ about 1,000 to 1,500 workers once fully operational, said CEO Duke Hale during an interview with Detroit radio station WWJ.
HAAH plans to begin recruiting dealers at the NADA Show in Las Vegas this week.
The effort, if carried through, could mark back-to-back debuts of Chinese brands in the United States. HAAH is already working to bring China-made Zotye utility vehicles to the U.S. next year through a network of dealers in 100 markets. Zotye hasn't indicated any plans to sell in Canada.
But to date, Chinese automakers' ambitions to set up retail networks in the United States have fizzled. Within a decade of its 1997 founding, Chery went public with plans to sell in the U.S. It still hasn't arrived.
More recently, Guangzhou Automobile Group had targeted a debut of 2019 before rising trade tensions and tariff concerns forced GAC to abandon its plan.
Homologation of the Chery SUV has begun, HAAH said, but the specific model — based on Chery's Exeed brand platform — and other details weren't announced.
HAAH will be signing up franchisees to handle Vantas vehicle deliveries and service as well as the final sales process.
HAAH has a cloud-based digital sales platform that will be used to support Vantas and dealer operations, the company said in a statement.
Said Hosford: "Every sale will go to a dealer, it just will depend on what point it is that the customer wants that involvement."