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Should Chinese EVs be sold in the United States?

There is a debate right now about whether our not Chinese car companies should be allowed to sell in the U.S. With the announcement of BYD aiming to build cars in Mexico, that creates a way for the brand to enter the U.S. and offer its cars to a new market.

Opponents to this will say that China doesn’t compete on a fair playing field. They aren’t a capitalistic economy, and the government heavily subsidizes the car industry so that it can offer vehicles inexpensively (at or below cost).

Experts say that if a company like BYD isn’t playing on the same field as a GM, Ford, or Honda, that it’ll create an unfair advantage and bring chaos to the automotive world.

I have an MBA. I understand manufacturing and business. But I’m also an advocate for the consumer, and what I’m seeing right now is not a pro-consumer environment for buying cars (let alone EVs) in the U.S.

Cars are expensive. Interest rates are high. EVs are even more expensive. When Ford launched the fantastic F-150 Lightning, the starting price was a whisker under $40,000 before delivery. Now its a whisker under $50,000, and has had many different price shifts since launch.

We’ve been promised a $25,000 EV for about as long as EVs have existed. Some have even argued that less expensive EVs is somehow bad for customers.

Yes, that article is referring to depreciation and the secondhand market, but the point still stands that in the year 2024, someone is arguing that a less expensive vehicle is bad.

The automakers in the United States right now don’t seem to want to make a less expensive car. Nissan used to sell 3 vehicles that started at less than $20,000 to start. One was a compact crossover (the Kicks), one was a sedan (the Versa), and one was a pickup truck (the Frontier). Now it appears the Versa is dead in 2025, the Kicks is getting updated very, very, very, very soon (but likely won’t be less money as it now starts at over $21,000), and the Frontier starts at a smidge over $30,000.

If nobody wants to sell an inexpensive car, then why not like the Chinese try? If the current administration would go to all the automakers and ask them if they plan on building a cheap EV, and they all say “no,” then there wouldn’t be too much harm in letting a company like BYD bring a car like the Seal here.

The government could set a price cap, if it wants to continue its role as protectionist. The cars would still have to be NHTSA rated and likely IIHS would want to do its own testing. The cars would still have to be competitive.

Maybe it’d still throw the whole automotive landscape into chaos in the U.S., but right now cars aren’t getting any cheaper, dealers continue to want to stock the priciest trims, and saying the secondhand market is the solution is… not the solution.

Things don’t appear to be changing anytime soon, so why not try something different?

Written by Chad Kirchner
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