DETROIT – China’s leading domestic auto maker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., hopes to begin exporting vehicles to the U.S. by 2010, a company official tells Ward's.

Yinda Chen, vice president-Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (Group) says the auto maker would like to export worldwide 50,000 units annually of its still under development SAIC-brand models by the end of the decade.

“I hope that among the 50,000, some will be brought to the U.S.,” Chen says through an interpreter here at the 2006 SAE World Congress, where he spoke on an Original Equipment Suppliers Assn. panel.

Smaller Chinese auto makers, including Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. and Geely Holding Group, already have announced intentions to begin selling vehicles in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Chen says that while he is concerned about the quality of the first Chinese cars to arrive on U.S. shores, he is hopeful that the auto makers will have superior vehicles to bring to the American market.

SAIC obviously wants to bring its product to the U.S.,” Chen says, but adds that like other companies that wish to do so, the auto maker will be careful in making sure its vehicles meet U.S. standards for quality and features.

SAIC President Hu Maoyuan reportedly wants to begin production of SAIC-brand vehicles by 2007, selling 600,000 over a 5-year time span. The auto maker has said it wants to double its capacity to 2 million units by 2010.

SAIC’s joint venture with General Motors Corp., Shanghai General Motors Automotive Co. Ltd., sold the most passenger vehicles in China last year, 325,429, overtaking sales of its joint venture with Volkswagen AG, Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co. Ltd., which slipped to No.2 with 287,000 units sold in 2005.

Chen says it is up to GM and VW to decide whether and when they want to begin exporting their own Chinese-built cars to the U.S.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com