Most Americans aren’t familiar with the Chinese car brand Zotye, but the painful car geeks that make up 90 percent of our readership are likely to remember that there was a Chinese carmaker that built a shameless copy of a Porsche Macan. That’s them. Now, it seems they have plans to come to America, and be the first Chinese brand to sell under their own name. This could be fun.
While Chinese-built cars are being sold in the U.S., so far none is being marketed or sold under a Chinese brand. Zotye Automobile has partnered with HAAH Automotive Holdings to develop a sales and distribution network in America, with the goal of selling Zotye vehicles in the U.S. by late 2020.
Here’s what their press release has to say:
The company’s first U.S. product with be an SUV but the specific model has not been announced. Engineering development and homologation work on the model is underway and is proceeding smoothly. Sales to retail customers in the U.S. are expected to begin in 2020, according to Zotye USA.
“I am beyond thrilled to make this announcement, the result of more than four years of discussions and negotiations with the Zotye in China. With the agreement, we have begun setting up a franchised dealer network to handle sales and service in America. We’ve had discussions with several major dealers already and will have more to say about that in the months to come,” said Hale.
“HAAH Automotive Holdings is a disruptor and we will be adding innovative features and processes to the customer and franchise dealer system. These new ideas will dramatically improve the current system, bringing in greater simplicity to the purchase process and more transparency for customers while also offering dealers unique advantages. The result will be a system that will function better for everyone,” said Pradzinski.
Any company that calls itself a “disruptor” always wins some eye-rolls from me, but, who knows, maybe this will actually happen.
Zotye’s product lineup is interesting; they started out building mostly on licensed Fiat platforms, which even included a version of Fiat’s delightfully bonkers Multipla, which they called the Multiplan.
As far as what car may actually come to the U.S. in 2020, even though the press release says the model has not been announced, the page titled, alarmingly, WHAT ABOUT US (that header sounds like something you overhear in a restaurant at the table next to you that’s in the middle of a screaming break-up) on HAAH’s website does specify a model:
Zotye USA is our second brand with HAAH having US distribution rights to sell their full range of SUVs. Zotye is one of the fastest growing car company’s in China and is a JV partner with Ford. The first model T600 SUV will arrive in the US September 2020.
That’s the Coupe version of the T600, which looks a bit Audi/VW-ish. Here’s another variant:
That’s a very normal, modern-looking SUV. The profile is quite Volkswagen Touareg-like, and it would disappear in any American parking lot, no problem.
The engine is a 1.5-liter inline four, making around 160 horsepower, which seems adequate. These start around $18,000 in China, which is pretty cheap. If they can keep a price around that while meeting U.S. emissions and safety standards, they might have decent luck.
What’s going to be most interesting to see is if Zotye will continue with their proven design strategy of shameless knockoffs. Cars like the very Macan-like Zotye have been very successful for Zotye, but will that kind of thing fly in America?
I guess we’ll see. I sort of hope they do try some Porsche knockoffs here, including a 911 clone with a rear-mounted, transverse inline-4 that makes about 170 horsepower or so. And sells for about $23,000. That would be a fun shitstorm to watch.