US: Chinese vehicle importer names powertrain chief

By just-auto.com editorial team | 13 December 2006

Chamco Auto, which expects to become the first company to import Chinese-made vehicles into North America, has named Peter Leu vice president - powertrain.

Chamco Auto is partnered with Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Company (Zxauto China) which makes a SUVs and pickup trucks. It is currently inviting applications from dealers and plans to start vehicle sales towards the end of next year.

Leu brings over 30 years of engineering experience to Chamco. He has held management positions in companies such as Daimler-Benz, Festo, Kuhnke, Behr Thermot-Tronik and INZI Controls, and has experience in CAD, engine calculation software, and thermal management. He has specialised in engine design, cooling systems, and electronics systems management, and was a lead developer of a MAP-controlled thermostat that significantly reduces fuel consumption and engine emissions. This MAP-controlled thermostat is now being used in cars produced by Ford, Mazda, BMW, and Volkswagen.

Leu holds many patents in fuel consumption reduction and emissions control systems for both petrol and diesel engines, as well as multiple patents for valves and cylinders. He is also skilled in pneumatics and hydraulics.

"Peter's breadth of knowledge and years of experience with powertrains and engines will be invaluable to Chamco Auto in aiding our Chinese manufacturing partners to homologate their vehicles to meet USA EPA and emissions standards," noted Chamco Auto chairman Bill Pollack.

On its website, Chamco Auto says it plans to sell "stylish, high-quality Chinese vehicles with a base [suggested retail price] of about $US13,250 and a front end of $1,900 beginning in late 2007" and is looking for "potential dealer investors" to "become one of only 100 joint venture partners we'll be accepting".

The company is holding events in Detroit on 10 and 11 January coinciding with the motor show and at the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) convention in Las Vegas in February.

Chamco Auto will later expand its line with sedans and crossover vehicles manufactured by Changchun Chanlin Group, the website says.

Chamco is offering dealers $1,650 front end margin, plus the option of an additional $300 per car, large, exclusive territories and a standard three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty with the option of a five-year/60,000-mile and/or a 10-year/100,000-mile drive train warranty.

The website says 'market entry pricing' for the first five years will always be 20% below the lowest equivalent brand name competitor, promises "exceptional quality control" and adds that initially, a dual [franchise] facility is acceptable.

The investment to become a 'joint venture partner' of $300,000 delivers, in return, "preferential consideration as a potential dealer as well as equity participation (projected to grow to $3.75 million in value by 2011, with no guarantees intended or implied)". Dealers need a $1.5m floor plan, good customer service ratings and marketplace track record, the website adds.

Somewhat confusingly, another part of the website says "The number of joint venture partnerships is limited to 150 [it mentions 100 earlier] — and they are going fast."

Zxauto's website says that Hebei Zhongxing Automobile is a joint venture between Taiwan Unite Leading and Hebei Tianye Automobile Group with annual production capacity of 110,000 units and 2,800 staff.

The company has two main vehicle factories and a product research and development centre. Its newly-built Zhongxing Auto Factory is described as a well-equipped vehicle base with 15 computerised production lines totalling seven kilometres  in length with pressing, welding, painting and assembly under one roof and annual production capacity of 80,000 units. Current products are the Zhongxing SUV and a pickup series with more than 20 model variants.

Export markets include 40 countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and central and south America.

Recent notable deals include an order for 5,000 vehicles for Iraq in March 2006 and the July 2005 signing of a deal with Russia's Avtotor for the CKD assembly kit export of 75,000 vehicles over five years.