Chinese automaker Zotye last week named its first U.S. dealerships as it prepares to launch in 2020, and it's not following in the tire tracks of other new brands by sticking to coastal areas to start.
Automotive News reported from the National Automobile Dealers Association conference last week that the Chinese brand named 19 stores that will be first to sell Zotye (pronounced Zoh-tay) vehicles in the U.S. The company will launch with dealers on the west coast in California and on the east coast in Maryland.
However, the Chinese won't take the approach taken by Kia about 25 years ago by sticking to coastal markets. Zotye will go after the U.S. heartland, too. The automaker announced dealers in smaller markets such as Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kansas. Heading south, Zotye will also feature dealers in North Carolina and Florida at launch.
Zotye eventually wants to franchise 300 to 325 dealers in the U.S., but the 19 dealers are the first to climb aboard. Zotye has its sights on 80 top sales markets in the U.S.
Zotye USA's Chinese parent company established the automaker's regional headquarters in Lake Forest, California, south of Los Angeles. Zotye is also a major partner with Ford in China, and the two previously detailed plans to sell electric cars under a new brand in China.
As for the brand's launch model, the company has said, but it has hinted it may be the T600 crossover SUV. The decision would make sense noting the market's turn to utility vehicles in the past few years. The model has been on sale in China since 2013.
With Zotye's first dealers announced, the brand is now in deep competition with GAC, another Chinese brand that plans to sell cars in the U.S. GAC originally planned to roll out its vehicle and dealers this year, but the ongoing U.S.-China trade war has pushed those plans to 2020—the same timeframe as Zotye.