“I’m getting disturbed that this keeps getting pushed back,” said one dealer who still supports the project. Losing the planned “Made in America” label is a disappointment, the dealer said, but the constant delays in getting vehicles on the ground are even more worrisome.
Another dealer said the appeal remains strong for retailing the first Chinese auto brands in the U.S. market, but the repeated setbacks are concerning.
HAAH founder and CEO Duke Hale told Automotive News that he understands the dealer frustration in the U.S. and Canada. But there are mitigating circumstances, he said, such as travel limits caused by the pandemic that have complicated the search for a U.S. site alongside Chinese partner Chery.
“We have been evaluating opportunities for an assembly facility in the U.S.,” Hale said in an interview last week. “But COVID hasn’t cooperated, which hasn’t allowed us to bring some of our Chinese colleagues over. We have to do certain assessments that you can’t do via Zoom,” he said.
“We had to shift gears on the fly, and we decided that rather than further delay a [vehicle] introduction, it would be better to bring the first model or two out of China. It will give us more time to hopefully get through COVID and therefore move to a brownfield-type facility,” Hale said.
The imports will incur a 27.5 percent tariff, but Hale said that HAAH and dealers can still make money, even as he promises sticker prices that are 15 to 20 percent lower than competing models.