China’s “connected” cars are a threat to national security, says Biden • The Register

China’s “connected” cars are a threat to national security, says Biden • The Register

Concerned about the possibility that Chinese-made cars could pose a future threat to national security, the Biden administration is proposing plans to study potential threats posed by “connected” vehicles made in the Middle Kingdom.

In a statement this morning, the US president said the fact that most modern cars are “like smartphones on wheels” means that cars made in China and sold in the US can collect sensitive data, transmit it abroad and even have remote access or be disabled.

“China is imposing restrictions on American cars and other foreign cars operating in China,” Biden said. “Why should connected vehicles from China be allowed to operate in our country without safeguards?”

The US president said he was leaving the responsibility for uncovering the reality of the threat posed by Chinese cars to the Commerce Department, which today said it had issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking public comment on the matter.

“I have directed my Secretary of Commerce to conduct an investigation into connected vehicle technology from countries of concern and to take action to address the risks,” Biden said of the plan.

The Commerce Department says the ANPRM relates to possible provisions to secure information and communications technology supply chains for connected vehicles that “may pose undue risks to critical infrastructure in the United States and unacceptable risks to national security.”

“It doesn’t take much imagination to think how a foreign government with access to connected vehicles could pose a serious risk to both our national security and the personal privacy of US citizens,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “We need to understand the extent of the technology in these cars that can capture vast arrays of data or remotely disable or manipulate connected vehicles.”

Several US automakers, including Ford and GM, already produce cars in China for sale in the US market. It is not clear whether these vehicles will undergo the same inspection as those produced by Chinese companies.

The ANPRM does not yet appear to be publicly available, and the Commerce Department did not immediately respond to questions for this story.

The Rise of the Automotive Middle Kingdom

The auto business is booming in China, which could pose a major threat to US automakers.

Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD overtook Tesla as the best-selling EV maker last year, and China reportedly exported more than five million vehicles last year, making it the world’s largest vehicle exporter for the first time.

Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis, which owns US car brands Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and others, reportedly described Chinese automakers as his biggest competitors in late January — with good reason.

According to Motor Trend, nine Chinese automakers have set up shop in Mexico in the past three years, giving Chinese automakers — should they ever decide to enter the U.S. market — a direct and easy path.

In just three short years of sales, Chinese cars have skyrocketed in popularity in Mexico, with about nine percent of cars sold in the country coming from Chinese brands. Chinese vehicles have overtaken sales of US-made models in 2022, according to Mexican news sources.

China is also the world’s largest car market, selling about 23.6 million cars in 2022, while Americans bought only about half of them in the same period. Declining sales also led to lower production numbers in the US auto industry.

In other words, China is rapidly becoming the center of the global auto industry, and the US is beginning to worry not only about national security, but about an industry that is fundamental to American identity.

“As president, I vowed to do right by autoworkers and the middle-class families who depend on the auto industry for jobs,” Biden said today. “With this and other actions, we will ensure that the future of the auto industry is made here in America, with American workers.” ®

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