Buying cars is for chumps. Real gearheads buy entire car companies. And now it looks like you can, courtesy of China’s massive bulk-buying e-commerce site Alibaba.
I found the scarcely-believable listing while researching Kantanka, which is touted as Ghana’s first car company. As it turned out, the “Proudly Made In Ghana” cars had actually been on sale in China for nearly half a decade. You can read more about Kantanka in depth right here if you so desire.
The reason I bring them up is that the Chinese company that claims to supply Kantanka with their factory and production capacity is the wildly-named Chongqing Big Science & Technology Development Co., Ltd.
Chongqing Big Science & Technology’s cars, as they claim, are built in China. They are not fully built, however.
The idea is they’d be shipped only in pieces to an overseas workshop or factory. There they’d be assembled with significantly more limited tools than what you might find at a full-scale car factory. They call these Knock Down kits (KDs) that can either arrive overseas completely or partially in pieces. With a knock down kit, a company could start up auto production without as much expensive equipment as a major manufacturer (like robots on an assembly line, or large stamping machines) and without as much training for assembly workers as you’d need at a more established company.
Indeed, building cars from scratch is hugely difficult and hugely expensive. And that’s where knock down kits come in. With limited money, time, and expertise, somebody can set up their own car production line.
Wondering how you might build an assembly line for your Chongqing Big Science 4x4? Don’t worry, they’ll sell you the assembly line, too.
Chongqing Big Science’s Alibaba page notes that their cars are initially produced in nearby Guangdong in Southeastern China. Not-so-coincidentally that is where you will find the production facilities of Foday, which has happily advertised their ability to produce complete knock down kits for overseas assembly.
Knock-down production has been completely commonplace since the very start of the automobile. In fact, more major car companies than you might think got their start as it looks like Kantanka did, selling KD vehicles under license. Alfa Romeo springs to mind for their productions of Darracqs around the turn of the century, Nissan got its start building copies of the Austin 7, and virtually the entire French car industry began using license-built copies of Daimler engines. And plenty of established car companies have offered KD kits to minor automakers out there. Lincoln selling CKD Town Cars to Hongqi in China is a fun one.
My personal favorite must be the legendary Paykan, a version of the Hillman Hunter assembled in Iran. There are more examples, but I don’t have my whole library of automotive histories in front of me to look through.
What makes Kantanka different from those companies? Well, they deserve some scrutiny for advertising their cars as “Made In Ghana” when they appear to be more like “Assembled In Ghana,” and in a vastly more questionable plant and with no evidence of any private sales yet—after years and years of promises.
And thanks to Alibaba, a private company appears to be trying to get you too in on this knock-down kit business. You don’t need to leave it to start up companies! I’m sure you could get a couple buddies together with a welder and a Craftsman set and get a little assembly line going.
After a little poking around I was able to discover that Chongqing Big Science does not appear to limit itself to Foday vehicles. They also offer this sweet electric Mini Moke knockoff! Chongqing Big Science wants $9,699-9,999 per unit with a commitment of 100 units per month.
I swear I am like two clicks away from signing up for this and starting production of a Jalopnik car here in New York City.
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