The start of the global financial crisis in 2008 coincided with the loss of GM’s position in the automobile industry. The US company’s ranking—which seemed to belong to the natural order of things—was overtaken by Toyota who continues to possess it today. With the crisis in full swing a year later, another title slipped away: China became the biggest automobile market in the world with approximate 18 million cars. The automotive throne, the bastions of capitalism, progress, and technology changed hands. The legend of Detroit, the symbolic capital of the industry, seemed consigned to history books; Henry Ford’s Model T, assembly lines, mass production, and the conquest of personal freedom at the wheel appeared to be memories for scholars. The automobile industry contained hard and software: it employed millions of employees and guaranteed the mobility of the American dream, the conceptual barrier even before the geographical one. The numbers confirm and sharpen China’s overtaking of the US. If the first trimester’s results are confirmed, China should reach 20 million units sold, with imports equal to 500,000 vehicles, while car sales in the US only reached 15.6 million cars in 2013—with a strong percentage of imports. Secondary phenomena clearly shine through these trends. Aside from industrial recovery in the US, also thanks in great part to government intervention, internal dynamics in China demonstrate important contradictions. The market boom has privileged foreign autos (which is to say, built in China with obligatory local partners) compared to national carmakers, whose market share declined form 31 to 27% in 2013. In an ironic coincidence, Chinese companies engaged in joint ventures had much more success that private or unallied Chinese companies. The former gain advantage from income position. By law, at least 50% of joint ventures must be in Chinese hands. This regulation has favored the big state-owned enterprises that neglected research and innovation to wheedle out their foreign partners’ resources. They have, in turn, enjoyed uninterrupted successes because their sales in China have exceeded those in their home countries for years. The proceeds from behind the Great Wall allow them to balance losses suffered in industrialized countries. In particular, high-end cars produced in joint ventures practically don’t have rivals in China. Exclusively domestic production is rightfully considered lower quality, less safe, less stylistically captivating, and in any case, unable to serve as a status symbol. Indirect confirmation comes from overseas: Chinese exports are in decline in contrast to imports, which is caused by luxury sedans and SUVs. China is first in quantity, but still not in technology. The market is growing but not improving: Chinese models are not being launched; there is no productive revolution in sight, and the engineering deficit it still evident. The contrast between big state-owned enterprises and small, independent producers was not capable of creating the desired competition. Funds to stimulate progress are not lacking, Dongfeng’s recent acquisition of Peugeot is evidence of this (14% equity). In any case, ownership might not suffice, without the ability to manage, international experience, a concept of business based on complexity even before demand. The Chinese automobile industry has been growing without imposing models for years; turnover is increasing without building imitable successes. Detroit lost its first place in accounting, but the entire sector’s history and legacy will be associated with the Michigan metropolis for a long time.