Chinese Companies Flock to Metro Detroit in Search of Automotive Expertise

When Tianhai Electric North America won a $300,000 incentive from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority to establish a world headquarters in Orion Township this past May, it was the latest example of a Chinese automotive company choosing to locate operations in Southeast Michigan—and part of a growing trend that has the Detroit area playing an increasingly prominent role in the Chinese auto industry.

According to the Detroit Regional Chamber, at least 50 Chinese companies serving the auto industry have established new ventures in metro Detroit during the past decade—up from 5 in 2000. (See the list on the next page for some prominent players.) The companies range in size from a handful of employees to several hundred, but all are united in a common goal: to make better cars.

“China’s auto industry is booming,” said LianneYan, Executive Vice President of the Detroit Chinese Business Association. “But it’s trying to raise the quality of the cars it produces. Detroit’s strength is in auto parts and research and development, and that’s why the companies come here.”

Hong Su, Vice President of the Changan US Research and Development Center in Plymouth—which is wholly owned by Chongqing Changan Automobile, the first major Chinese automotive manufacturer to open a facility in the United States—said that Detroit is like no other place in the world in terms automotive know-how.

“Detroit has more than 100 years of design and development expertise, in addition to many experienced engineers and a whole spectrum of service providers, from tooling to testing to consulting firms,” Su said. “The biggest plus to doing business in Southeast Michigan is its concentration of talent, resources and supplies.”

Detroit’s century-plus of experience is something the burgeoning Chinese auto industry needs, as it wasn’t until 1956 that China’s very first road vehicle rolled out of the Changchun No. 1 Automotive Works. In late 2000, the first car to be made … Next Page »

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