An Arizona businessman hopes to begin distributing inexpensive Chinese-built cars and trucks to United States dealers by this autumn, according to the USA Today newspaper.


David Shelburg of Scottsdale reportedly said his company, China Motor, has signed up dealers in California and Arizona to sell the vehicles – he wants to distribute a model range that includes two sport-utility vehicles, two pickups and two cars.


USA Today said Shelburg has been trying to sell Chinese-built cars in the USA for 10 years and has been sued by unhappy dealers who say they never got vehicles to sell and lost thousands of dollars. Texas officials reportedly said Shelburg’s last attempt, in 1997, went so badly that he is barred from selling any vehicles in Texas.


Shelburg told the paper his attempt to sell Chinese cars in the late ’90s fell victim to government delays, “crooks and bandits,” and unfair news reports that damaged his reputation and business potential.


He reportedly said the government took too long to approve the SUV he wanted to sell, then said it would need updated emissions equipment, which the manufacturer wouldn’t pay for.


This time, Shelburg has partnered with Chinese automakers Great Wall Automobile Holding, China Zhejiang Geely Group and Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Manufacturing, USA Today said.


He reportedly wants to sell subcompact sedans called the Solo and Merrie, compact pickups called the Sailor and Deer and compact SUVs called the Safe and Sing – all are currently built and sold in China and sell for $US9,000 to $15,000.


Federal officials told USA Today that Shelburg has yet to supply the necessary documents to begin importing and selling the vehicles, including proof that they meet emissions standards and have safety equipment required in the USA, and legal contacts if a vehicle is recalled.


“It’s a complicated thing and not an easy process,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Tim Hurd told the paper. “We have not received the things from them that a manufacturer or distributor has to give us to sell cars.”


But Shelburg told USA Today he had started the process and has five vehicles in Arizona going through the required federal emissions testing. He expected the tests, which are required by the EPA, to be completed in July.


“Once we’re cleared, we can bring in 15,000 in the first batch,” he told the newspaper.


USA Today said one of the dealers currently signed with Shelburg says he realised getting the necessary approvals could be time consuming.


“This is a long-term commitment,” said Tim Southwick Jr., who, with his dad, runs one of the top Toyota dealerships in California. “It would surprise me if it takes less than two or three years to get all the approvals to sell them.”


According to USA Today, Southwick admitted the enterprise is a gamble. “Sooner or later, Chinese cars will be in the marketplace. It’s just a matter of time,” he told the paper.


The report noted that some carmakers have complained that Chinese companies have stolen parts and patented ideas to make knockoff cars, some of which, they say, are among those Shelburg wants to import.


Nissan reportedly said the front design of the Sing SUV, built by Great Wall, was stolen from the Nissan Paladin, which is built and sold in China.


Shelburg told USA Today his attempt to sell Chinese cars in the USA was questioned because “I’m a threat to the industry. When they see my product and the price, they want to stop me.”