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Chinese automaker Zotye starts recruiting American dealers and plans to sell budget crossover -Cars Automobiles

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Hale: "We are looking for different ways to do business, in contrast to the old approach, which is not about anything."

China's Zotye Automobile International Co. has begun recruiting US dealers and tasked two import industry veterans with bringing a budget crossover to America by 2020.

The distributor will be Zotye USA of Lake Forest, California, led by former Mazda and Volvo Executive Director Duke Hale, owner of HAAH Automotive Holdings, Hale said in a statement on Tuesday. Long-time Hyundai Motor America CEO Bob Pradzinski is named Senior Vice President of Sales. The company will also handle parts and service.

If successful, this could be the long-awaited premiere of a Chinese car brand in the US. Recently, the Guangzhou Automotive Group had targeted 2019, but said last month that new US tariffs were likely delayed his arrival until 2020

Zotye USA is a unit of HAAH Automotive HoldingsFounded by Hale in 2014 to build US distribution networks for foreign brands. His first customer was Dubai W engines, which produces sports cars with low volume.

The second HAAH customer is Zotye (pronounced Zo-tay), who intends to announce his first batch of about 20 franchise dealers next month, Hale said. "We offer flexibility to traders," he said. "We're looking for different ways to do business, unlike the old approach to brick and mortar."

According to Hale, Zotye is testing immediate marketing efforts driven by brands such as Saturn and Tesla.

Saturn was a leading advocate of no-faggle pricing before being overthrown in the wake of General Motors' 2009 bankruptcy. Tesla has minimized its investments in the showroom by presenting models in shopping malls and other venues and by bypassing the traditional franchise system.

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To help Zotye USA, Hale Pradzinski, a 26-year-old Hyundai veteran, has closed down. Pradzinski advanced to second place ahead of Hyundai Motor America departure in 2015,

HAAH "is a nuisance and we will add innovative features and processes to the customer and franchise dealer system," Pradzinski said in the statement.

Pradzinski's experience should prove relevant. Zotye intends to rate its models "well below" competitors like Hyundai, Kia and Mazda, Hale said Automotive News,

According to the HAAH website, the first US model will be the T600, a five-door crossover that debuted in 2013 in China. Analysts have noted the similarity of the body with the Audi Q5, while the front end resembles the Volkswagen Toureg.

In China, prices are between $ 11,700 and $ 20,200, according to the website.

But Hale said the automaker had not decided which vehicle to sell.

In any case, Zotye will position itself as a new brand – despite new 25-percent US tariffs on Chinese car imports. To do this, Zotye and HAAH would pay at least a portion of the fare, Hale said.

"Even if the rates go up, this will not stop our business," he vowed.

Zotye produces passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and trucks. Global sales were 317,000 units last year, down 4.8 percent from a year ago.

In its home market, Zotye is much smaller than rivals like Geely, GAC and Great Wall. Zotye exports relatively few vehicles to the Middle East, Africa and South America and does not play a major role in Europe.

Zotye "would be in the second row of automakers," said Michael Dunne, head of ZoZo Go, an investment consulting firm specializing in the Chinese auto industry. "They are fast-paced but not fully established."

Last year, Ford Motor Co. formed a 50-50 Joint ventures with Zotye to produce and sell electric vehicles in China.

"They convinced Ford to be their partner," Dunne stated. "So there must be some substance there."

Tuesday's announcement adds Zotye, in the eastern Chinese city of Yongkang, to the list of Chinese automakers who have openly declared their intention to sell Chinese brands in the United States.

So far, no brands have arrived.

Before the big recession, including automakers Geely, Chery Automobile Co, and BYD car spoke of opening up the US automobile market to a number of low-cost passenger cars.

Geely finally exported from China to the US – but about the Swedish Volvo that the Chinese automaker took over from Ford in 2010.

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