Chinese companies started talking a decade ago about cracking the U.S. auto market with an array of low-cost passenger vehicles. That hasn’t happened, so instead they’re getting under the hoods of American cars by buying up parts makers at a record pace. For example, in 2015, Aviation Industry Corp of China bought windows and doors parts maker Henniges Automotive Inc.

Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp. supplies windshield-washer and ventilation systems to some of the world’s biggest carmakers, including Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Volkswagen AG. Last year, it spent more than $1 billion buying a Michigan maker of air bags and an Indiana manufacturer of assembly-line equipment.

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