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GM To Import China-Built Cars To U.S.

Wed, 05/13/2009 - 8:05am

SHANGHAI (AP) -- General Motors Corp. plans to begin exports of vehicles made in China to the United States within two years, ramping up sales to more than 50,000 by 2014, reports said Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for GM in China did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports, which were said to be based on a company recovery plan given to U.S. lawmakers.

GM intends to sell 17,335 made-in-China passenger cars in the U.S. market by 2011, the Shanghai Securities News and other reports said. By 2014 exports would triple to more than 51,000, it said.

The main focus would be on exporting small cars similar to the Chevrolet Spark, the reports said.

If true, GM could end up becoming the first automaker to begin exporting to the U.S. from China: previously announced plans by Chinese manufacturers to crack the U.S. market have so far fizzled.

Most Chinese automakers have been daunted by the challenge of meeting stringent U.S. safety standards. They also face the uphill battle of winning consumer confidence for their unfamiliar brand names.

Brand name recognition is perhaps the least of GM's problems as it faces a June 1 government-imposed deadline to finish a restructuring plan or follow Chrysler LLC into bankruptcy protection.

Opting to export from China would help the company, now surviving on $15.4 billion in federal loans, to slash production costs and make full use of its huge investments in factories here.

But it would likely raise protests from labor unions it has been seeking to win concessions from as part of its restructuring.

The plan also would represent a shift from past strategy. GM officials have long emphasized their commitment to first meeting demand in China before considering exports to the U.S. or other markets.

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