By the end of 2020, North Americans may be able to purchase their first ever Chinese-branded vehicle, now that Chinese company Zotye Auto has inked a distribution deal with California-based HAAH Automotive Holdings.
The two have formed Zotye USA and will likely launch with a mid-size crossover (probably the T700, which is the flagship of the line in China and is prominently promoted on the HAAH website). Although it has some design cues from current SUVs from other global manufacturers, it is Zotye’s original design.
Many of the company’s past and current products have been accused of being blatant copies of existing products from other manufacturers (such as the T700 predecessor T600, which bore more than a passing resemblance to the Volkswagen Tiguan).
Zotye (pronounced Zoh-tay) is setting a timeline of between now and 2022 to have its US distribution network in place (in a move HAAH says will “Disrupt the car buying process hand-in-hand with new vehicle dealers to provide both a superior customer and dealer experience”) and says the first product will be ready to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“We have begun setting up a franchised dealer network to handle sales and service in America,” said HAAH Chairman and CEO Duke Hale. “We’ve had discussions with several major dealers already and will have more to say about that in the months to come.”
A statement from Zotye from February 2018, following a China-visit by Hale and HAAH Senior Vice President Robert Pradzinski (who is now listed as Zotye USA Senior Vice President of Sales), said the two sides “formally signed a cooperation agreement to realize the sales of T700 in the US and Canada as soon as possible, and gradually increase the market launch of Zotye’s new products.”
However, the release also acknowledged the T700 is not ready to meet US regulatory requirements, so there may be some work ahead for the CUV that was launched in China in 2017.
Pretty much identical in size to the Ford Edge, the current T700 is available in front- and 4-wheel drive, powered by either a 1.8-litre or turbocharged 2.0-litre gasoline 4-cylinder engine, controlled by either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Company releases show typical premium features such as headlight washers, wireless mobile device charging, door-closing assist and a rotary automatic transmission gear selector that retracts into the centre console.
Two years ago, Zotye inked a 50/50 deal with Ford to build and market electric vehicles and other mobility solutions in China.