California company to sell China-designed SUVs in U.S.

A Southern California company on Monday announced it will build and sell Chinese-designed automobiles in the U.S. at the end of next year or early in 2022.

Irvine-based HAAH Automotive Holdings said it has an agreement with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile to provide the vehicles, which will be assembled in a U.S. factory. HAAH said the first vehicle sold will be a midsize SUV, under the brand name VANTAS.

HAAH Automotive Holdings announces creation of VANTAS, as part of parnership with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile. (HAAH Automotive Holdings)

Chery Automobile is one of the top ten automakers in China, exporting vehicles to more than 80 countries, according to HAAH, which promised the new deal will lead to new jobs in the U.S.

“This is a historic agreement creating VANTAS," said Duke Hale, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HAAH Automotive Holdings. "The brand will incorporate a number of new technologies from its Chinese partner, including 'Intelligent Connected' for a wide variety of safety and driver assistance technology, various aspects of autonomous driving and, in the future, new energy vehicles.” 

The partnership between HAAH and Chery is the latest effort to bring passenger vehicles designed in China to the United States. Other efforts so far have been met with limited success. GAC Motor of China has appeared at the last two Detroit auto shows to tout plans to enter the American market. But its plans have been delayed until June of this year.

General Motors Co. and Sweden's Volvo Cars export Chinese-made vehicles to the United States. China's BYD Auto sells battery-powered buses to U.S. transit companies.

Other Chinese brands have announced U.S. sales plans but have struggled to meet safety and emissions standards.

HAAH said it will develop a U.S. dealership network and have flexible online sales. The company also said it will be recruiting dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention, which starts later this week in Las Vegas.

Chery and HAAH are reviewing sites for a factory here in the U.S. but have not reached a decision, the company said. It is considering existing buildings as well as undeveloped sites.

Initially the SUVs will be assembled from kits to hit HAAH's on-sale target date. But the plant will move to full manufacturing over time, HAAH said. The company didn't give an estimate of how many people the factory will employ.

HAAH also has a partnership with Chinese automaker Zotye Auto, which plans to start selling vehicles in the United States in 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this story, which was reported in Oakland, Calif.