The first car made mostly in China is now for sale in the U.S. and it's no Yugo. It's an all electric sedan known as the Coda that has a longer range than competitors like the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF, but also costs more.
The new import signals China's arrival as a car chassis builder as well as a center for advanced batteries. And it's not just for export. The market in China for cars may soon swell the number of automobiles on the world's roads from roughly one billion to some two billion by mid-century.
The question is: what kind of cars will they be?
Early sales figures for electric vehicles like the Coda in the U.S. have been disappointing, despite the fact that the cars can get the equivalent of more than 100 miles-per-gallon. Why? Most likely cost and that's even more of a factor in China where electric cars remain out of economic reach. BYD, short for Build Your Dream, an electric carmaker in China has sold less than 1,000 such cars since 2008, more than half of which were buses and taxis.
All cars represent a tremendous drain on natural resources, from oil to steel. Regardless of whether we can afford cars made in China or elsewhere, the question remains whether the planet can.