• Studies

Poll: Most consumers are wary of Chinese automakers ahead of planned U.S. launches

By Analytics Team | July 24, 2018


  • Just over a third of consumers (35 percent) said they would not consider buying a Chinese brand vehicle. Twenty-eight percent of consumers said they would consider it; 37 percent said they were unsure.

  • Owners of American vehicles were the least likely to consider a Chinese vehicle; owners of Korean vehicles were the most likely to consider one.

  • The most-cited reasons for not buying a Chinese vehicle were reliability (24 percent), safety (21 percent) and lack of an established dealer and service network (15 percent).

  • Forty percent of respondents said price would be the most compelling reason they would buy one; 18 percent said it was technology and 15 percent said it was safety.

Full story:

Chinese brand vehicles will face an uphill battle earning the trust -- and attention -- of U.S. car shoppers, according to a recent poll by Autolist.

With several Chinese brands eyeing an entry into the U.S. market in the coming years, Autolist polled 1,565 consumers in July about their awareness of and openness to a Chinese brand vehicle.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they wouldn’t consider buying a vehicle from a Chinese brand. Thirty-eight percent said they were unsure, and 27 percent said they would consider one.

china brand chart

Consumers’ attitudes toward Chinese brands differ depending on what country their own car is from, Autolist’s study found.

Shoppers who currently own an Asian vehicle (from Japan or Korea) were more likely to consider a Chinese brand than people who currently own a European or American vehicle.

The largest percentage of owners who would consider a Chinese vehicle were those who currently own a Korean brand (Hyundai, Kia or Genesis), with 34 percent saying they were open to it. Forty-one percent said ‘Unsure’ and 25 percent said ‘No.’

Thirty-four percent of owners of Japanese vehicles (Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infiniti, Subaru, Mazda, Mitsubishi) were open to buying a Chinese brand. Thirty-seven percent said ‘Unsure’ and 30 percent said ‘No.’

Among respondents who own a European brand, 29 percent said they would be open to a Chinese vehicle, 34 percent were ‘Unsure’ and 37 percent said ‘No.’

Finally, owners of American brands were the least likely to consider buying a Chinese vehicle. Twenty-two percent said they would consider it, 36 percent said ‘Unsure’ and 42 percent said ‘No.’

So what’s holding consumers back? Concerns about reliability and safety.

Twenty-three percent of consumers surveyed said worries about reliability were the main reason that they wouldn’t buy a Chinese brand vehicle. Safety was a close second, with 21 percent of consumers citing it as their key concern. A lack of an established dealer and service network was the third most common reason, cited by 15 percent of those polled.

Chinese brands have long coveted the lucrative U.S. market, and several have made promises in the past only to have their plans evaporate due to low brand awareness, poor build quality and failure to meet U.S. safety standards.

But Chinese automakers like GAC Motor and Geely’s Lynk & Co (Geely also owns Volvo) have come a long way in quality, design and safety in their home market, and they now have the backing of mandatory joint ventures with established Western brands.

This confidence has led GAC to announce plans to sell cars in the U.S. by 2019 and Lynk & Co by 2020 (the brand's 01 compact CUV is seen above). Other brands -- particularly smaller, EV-centric automakers -- have expressed interest in the U.S. market as well.

When these brands do begin arriving on U.S. shores, their best chance for grabbing consumers’ attention -- and sales -- will be to compete on price, Autolist’s survey found.

Forty percent of those polled said price would be the most compelling reason to buy a Chinese brand vehicle. Technology was the second most cited reason at 18 percent. Safety ranked third at 15 percent.

Brand awareness is practically non-existent among U.S. consumers. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they hadn’t heard of any of the following Chinese brands: GAC, Lynk & Co, Geely, BYD, Chery or SAIC.

Of the brands listed, Chery ranked the highest in name recognition, with 5.77 percent of consumers saying they had heard of it. GAC ranked second, with 4.48 percent saying they’d heard of it and SAIC came in third with 4.73 percent.