Chinese assembly-line workers earn an average of slightly more than $1 an hour .
WUHU, China -- In this city on the Yangtze River, more than 25,000 blue-uniformed workers are busy churning out cars for Chery Automobile Co. As they motor through double shifts using the latest imported technology, they're also helping to change the dynamics of the global auto industry.
Barely a decade after it was founded, state-owned Chery has emerged as China's largest independent vehicle maker -- and one that is determined to compete against the world's automobile giants.
In July, the company signed a landmark deal with Chrysler LLC to sell a series of small cars made by Chery under the American auto maker's Dodge brand. Chrysler has said it plans to start selling the cars in Latin America and other developing markets next year and aims to have them on the market in the U.S. and Western Europe by 2009.
The pact marks the first time that one of Detroit's Big Three has outsourced the production of entire vehicles to a Chinese company. The deal also sends a warning to high-cost workers in the U.S. and Europe that even more of their jobs could be at risk.
Junior engineers at Chery earn about $6,000 a year, and many sleep in bunk beds four to a room in company dormitories. Some don't have driver's licenses and, like most Chinese people, didn't grow up riding around in a family car. Few workers can afford to buy the automobiles they make.
Assembly-line workers earn an average of slightly more than $1 an hour -- far less than their counterparts in Europe or North America but, in Anhui, a sought-after wage.
Chery can "offer low-cost platforms with speed," says Tom LaSorda, president and vice chairman of Chrysler, which has said it will eliminate 25,000 jobs in North America.