In the United States and countries around the world, Chinese cars just haven’t caught on yet. There is a reason for that. Despite being cheap, they are near-universally regarded as poor quality, and more importantly, dangerous to drive. We’ve all seen the videos of Chinese car crash tests.
Once they do get their act together with quality and safety, the key will then be marketing. Geely and Chery aren’t the best names (sarcasm alert) in reaching new audiences. Rather than throwing in hundreds of millions of advertising dollars trying to launch a new brand, purchasing established brands is a much easier way to reach that goal. In this case, the Chinese have purchased a name that has some cachet with enthusiasts – DeTomaso. This marks the end of Italian businessman Mario Rossignolo’s ill-fated attempt at independent auto manufacturing.
He purchased the bankrupt company 2009 and set about implementing a plan that included three new models. Those three models were a crossover, sedan and sports car. He planned to sell 8,000 cars a year, 3,000 copies of each.
The DeTomaso Deauville/SLS was the first of these product lines, and it was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2011. Uninspiring, the Deauville is a Cadillac SRX-based model that was supposed to have Italian craftsmanship as its big selling point. The details of what went wrong aren’t exactly clear, but financing ran out. Late in December, we heard the Chinese “licensed” the Deauville. Now, word from Motor Authority is in that the company has been sold entirely. The buyer is Car Luxury Investment, an Italian outfit owned by Chinese investment company Hotyork.
Hotyork’s chairman Qui Kunjian said “we believe in the opportunity to develop all the valuable potential of the company.” We bet most of that potential comes down to the brand name. There isn’t any clues as to the company’s future plans – whether it will be a Chinese-only operation or if Hotyork has big plans for DeTomaso. The plan previously was for the Deauville to be built in Turin, Italy at a former Pininfarina plant. Given this announcement, that is unlikely to ever come to fruition.