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What seemed like just another launch of a new vehicle was actually something more: the coming-out party for China’s globally ambitious auto industry. For the first time, a Chinese-branded car will be made in Western Europe for sale there, with the ultimate goal of landing in U.S. showrooms.
That’s the master plan of billionaire Li Shufu, who has catapulted from founding Geely Group as a refrigerator maker in the 1980s to owning Volvo Cars, British sports carmaker Lotus, London Black Cabs and the largest stake in Daimler AG — the inventor of the automobile. Li is spearheading China’s aspirations to wedge itself among the big three of the global car industry — the U.S., Germany and Japan — so they become the Big Four.
“I want the whole world to hear the cacophony generated by Geely and other made-in-China cars,” Li told Bloomberg News. “Geely’s dream is to become a globalized company. To do that, we must get out of the country.”
He’s not alone: At least four Chinese carmakers and three Chinese-owned startups — SF Motors Inc., NIO and Byton — plan to sell cars in the U.S. starting next year. At the same time, Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co. is building electric buses in California; Baidu Inc. is partnering with Microsoft Corp., TomTom NV and Nvidia Corp. on a self-driving platform; and Beijing-based TuSimple Inc. is testing autonomous-driving big rigs in Arizona.
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