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Beijing’s congestion, which causes commutes of up to five hours and traffic jams that can last days, exemplifies the problem of too many cars in dense urban settings.

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Two Chinese auto makers are examining selling vehicles in Canada, with one of the companies looking at a possible 2020 launch in Canada.

Guangzhou Automobile Group Motor Co. Ltd. will enter the U.S. market in 2019 and "we hope we can enter the Canadian market by the same time," but it might be 2020 when the company begins selling vehicles in Canada, said Yu Jun, general manager of state-owed Guangzhou Motor.

SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd. executives are in Canada this week assessing the market.

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"We are trying to understand your market," John Shi, senior manager of business development for SAIC USA Inc. told The Globe and Mail Wednesday at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association annual convention in Windsor, Ont.

The arrival of China-based auto makers would add a new dynamic to a market that is already hyper competitive with Detroit-based companies battling rivals from Japan, South Korea and Europe for market share. Asia and Europe-based auto makers captured 55.1 per cent of the Canadian market in the first five months of 2017, compared with 44.9 for the traditional Detroit Three.

The Canadian market is in record territory, but the U.S. market has fallen off its peak and appears poised for a decline.

Guangzhou's success in China, where homegrown manufacturers compete with U.S. companies as well as those elsewhere in Asia and from Europe, should prepare the auto maker for North America, Mr. Jun said in an interview from Montreal, where he was speaking at a conference.

That success in China includes compounded annual growth of 85 per cent in the past six years, he said, which took the company to sales of 380,000 last year. The goal is to hit sales of 1 million vehicles by 2020.

He pointed out that one of the company's car brands is called Trumpchi.

"I promise when we created this brand back in 2010, we didn't know Mr. Donald Trump and had no idea he would become the U.S. president," he said.

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At least one Guangzhou vehicle will be aimed at the heart of the North American market–the GS8 a seven-passenger sport utility vehicle.

SAIC is one of the largest China-based auto makers, with sales of 6.49 million vehicles in 2016, a 10 per cent increase on its 2015 totals.

Industry sources who met with SAIC representatives said the company appears to be in the preliminary stages of studying the Canadian market.

China already has a presence in the North American market through Volvo, which is owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More

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