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