Guangzhou, better known by their Heimlich-inspiring acronym GAC, is tentatively planning to sell their Trumpchi brand of cars in the US by 2017. The first car is likely to be this GS4 CUV, and after looking it over and climbing around inside it a bit, I think they could have a shot, if the price makes sense.
The design of the GS4 is not bad at all. Chinese cars have been accused of liberally borrowing from other cars in the past, and while there's some truth to that, it's not like every other automaker in the world hasn't indulged in a bit of stylistic bandwagon-jumping as well. The result isn't bad, and I like seeing influences like the truncated Citroen DS3 B-pillar used as a C-pillar on the GS4. The car looks modern, has some interesting design elements without being too radical, and could easily blend in to any parking lot in America today.
I tried to channel my inner asshole quality inspector, and poked around in crevices and door jambs and ran my fingers over everything I could in and around the car (note: booth professionals and a GAC executives are equally hard slappers) and, generally, the quality looked and felt pretty reasonable.
There were a few issues — there seems to have been a missing pivot bolt on the rear seatback, and there was a potent and lingering nail-polish-remover smell in the car from the outgassing plastics and adhesives. These could be issues with a pre-production car for an auto show, and I think overall the quality is close enough to, say, a Hyundai to make this seem viable.
The GS4 will have a few engines available — the presentation said a 1.3 and a 1.5 turbo, but an executive I talked to also mentioned a 1.8. I'd think a 1.3 is unlikely for the US. GAC has stuffed a lot of safety equipment into the Trumpchi GS4, or at least the acronyms for most of the normal, expected safety stuff, like ABS, TPMS, ESP, and a few of their own, like GAC, which in this context means "Geometry Absorption Control." I think that helps the car deal with any parallelograms or rhomboids that may come your way.
From what I can tell (admittedly not all that much, since I haven't yet had a chance to drive a Trumpchi) the GS4 I think could be a viable first-Chinese-brand in the US market. They'll have obstacles to overcome — proof the cars are (roughly) as safe as everything else is the big one, and that name. As it was explained to me, GAC is the parent company, like GM, Trumpchi is the marque, and, GS4 is the model. So this would normally be called a Trumpchi GS4. The problem with that I think is that saying 'Trumpchi' leads to people saying 'Trumpchimp' which leads to people thinking this:
Of course, make it cheap enough, and most of these problems will go away. GAC executives did not have any pricing information for me at this point, but we have to wait and see.