Wal-Mart May Sell Hybrids for "Major Companies" – Chinese Ones?

By Chris Haak

01.24.2008

According to Bloomberg this morning, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott gave a speech in Kansas City to store managers yesterday in which he has discussed selling gasoline-electric hybrid cars and plug-in automobiles at the company’s stores.

Scott was deliberately vague about which companies he had discussed this with, using the term “major companies.” He was also noncommittal about when or if it would actually happen, saying, “Maybe there isn’t room for Wal-Mart in this right now, but something tells me that there may be some role for us in the future.”

Considering that Wal-Mart is the #1 importer of Chinese goods in the US, and there is political opposition to selling Chinese cars in the US right now, it’s not a huge leap of logic to assume that Mr. Scott is talking with Chinese automakers with aspirations of selling vehicles in the US market. It’s also no surprise that, with the sorry displays put on by the Chinese automakers in Detroit last week and in crash tests posted to YouTube over the past few years, that he might be hesitant to name the companies, or even the country the companies are headquartered in.

Of course, I’m only speculating. In most cases, negotiations with automakers would be confidential until they are complete, so maybe he’s talking with someone like Toyota. But would Toyota – or any automaker currently in the US – really want their marketing messages tied to the low-prices-at-any-cost marketing message that Wal-Mart offers? Also, state franchise laws would probably make it difficult, if not impossible, for manufacturers with an existing dealer presence in those states to sell vehicles at Wal-Mart stores.

I’ve heard whispers before that Wal-Mart would be the beach head by which Chinese automakers enter the US market. Nothing is confirmed at this point, of course, but it would not surprise me in the least to see this manifest itself as a reality over the next few years.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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5 Comments

  1. Since this is an auto blog, and since this article is about Wal Mart, I’d like to share my favorite auto bumper sticker: “Mall Wart, your source for cheap plastic crap.”

    Enough said.

  2. Chinese cars not fit to be on our streets and highways right now, and probably won’t be for awhile. That’s not my opinion. That’s fact. If Wal-Mart plans on selling CHinese cars one minute after when they reach the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM requirements of safety and performance, they would be embarking on a very risky strategy in my point of view. The negative fallout from the American public could be huge.

  3. The intriguing thing for me about this is not the possibility of selling cars sourced from China but the concept of a retailer of bulky goods selling cars full stop.

    Given that cars require routine after sales service and normal etailers like Wal Mart don’t typically provide any aftersales service of any kind (except to return something that doesn’t work!) then it means applying a whole new business model…..that’d be fun to watch!!

  4. I’m sure Wal-Mart would sell and the company, whatever it was, would have service facilities separate from Wal-Mart.

  5. Wal-Mart and Chinese cars. Doesn’t that seem like a match made in heaven (hell)? I wonder if the same customers they have now will buy those Chinese cars.

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