China's Geely Automobile is preparing a campaign to counter protectionist sentiment in the US ahead of its local launch in early autumn 2008, the Financial Times reported.

According to the paper, Geely US unit COO John Harmer told the Society of Automotive Analysts that the company was seeking support from the Beijing government and other Chinese car makers for "a broad-based public relations effort" to deal with the protectionism issue.

The FT noted that Geely and state-owned Chery Automobile are vying to become the first Chinese carmakers to export vehicles to the US - Chery aims to put its vehicles on sale by late 2007 or early 2008.

The paper added that China became a net vehicle exporter for the first time last year though most of the exports are small vans sold in emerging markets, such as the Middle East and Ukraine.

The timing of the Geely and Chery launches will be influenced by the carmakers' ability to meet US emission and safety regulations, the Financial Times said.

Harmer reportedly said recent opinion polls showed a high level of concern about quality.

But the paper cited Rudy Schlais, former head of General Motors' Asia-Pacific operations, as saying that Chinese vehicles would meet all US standards, though, to make it into a paying proposition, the companies would need to reduce their cost base.

"I think that's four or five years away," he told the Financial Times.