While the Detroit 3 and the rest of the established automotive industry reel from the blows dealt by the poor world credit market and nosediving economy, smaller, newer companies like Chongqing Changan Auto Company (Changan Auto) are ramping up their plans for world conquest.

Taking advantage of the down state of their biggest competitors, Changan Auto hopes to make significant inroads into the U.S. and Europe even as it continues overseas acquisitions and mergers, reports Reuters.

Chinese carmakers have long been reviled as copy artists with little or nothing original to add to the industry, and while that reputation is to a large degree one earned through years of shady business practices, the industry itself steaming ahead on the back of a huge population and ever-increasing demand for cars. The company has made a name for itself with a few interesting concepts, including the e301 SUV shown at this year's Shanghai Auto Show.

U.S. and European automakers are increasingly looking to China for sales, but Changan Auto thinks the tide could flow the other way as well, with classic marques like Volvo on the auction block. Changan is one of several Chinese carmakers interested in buying Volvo from Ford.

Changan also announced yesterday that it is investing 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) into building its own engine base by 2012. Hybrids will begin sales next year with volume projections targeting 10,000 per year.

The question is whether American and European buyers will warm to the idea of Chinese vehicles. The two markets have been notoriously slow to open up to the Korean automakers, which have been diligently hammering away for over a decade and are just now beginning to get traction.