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11:08 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Chinese automakers and businesses quietly move into Detroit

This morning, the New York Times reported on the slow and steady increase of Chinese companies setting up in metro-Detroit.

The NYT's Bill Vlasic reports it has been a largely unannounced trend – and given the public opposition experienced by Japanese automakers – it is most likely an intentionally quiet entrance.

Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers.

Overall, most Chinese suppliers are interested in expanding their direct business with Detroit car companies. Many Detroit car companies rely on low-wage countries like Mexico to get common car parts. Chinese companies are trying to change that.

According to Vlasic, other Chinese automakers and businesses are in Detroit for research purposes. The Chinese carmaker, Changan Automotive, set up a research center in Plymouth to “better understand the structural chassis of a vehicle.”

About 50,000 Chinese live in the metropolitan area, primarily working as engineers and professionals for General Motors and the Ford Motor Company. The business networks have also grown – the Detroit Chinese Business Association consists of 100 Chinese-owned businesses in the region.

Vlasic reports the growing Chinese population is adding to the diversity of the metro-Detroit region.

The growth in the Chinese professional class has had a ripple effect on the broader community, as well, with Chinese community groups sponsoring youth soccer leagues, basketball tournaments and musical performances at Detroit Tigers games. One organization runs a Chinese soup kitchen every year at a local homeless shelter.

Read the full article here.

-Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom