Chinese automobile imports to the U.S. could begin as soon as mid-2008.

An unprecedented number of Chinese manufacturers opened exhibits at this year's North American International Auto Show.  Nearly twenty Chinese vehicles were on display, from pickup trucks to golf cart-sized electric vehicles, and it's clear that the industrial giant's carmakers are moving rapidly closer to entering the U.S. market.

Privately-owned Geely and Changfeng Motors each returned for their second appearance at the Detroit show, and were joined by Chamco Auto, BYD and Li Shi Guang Ming Automobile Design.

Though there is still some question as to if the Chinese vehicles on display will be able to meet North American emissions and safety requirements, there's a good chance that there will be Chinese cars on sale in the U.S. in the next few years.  Chamco Auto, which displayed a pickup truck and SUV at the NAIAS, is partnered with the Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Company (ZXAUTO) and intends to begin importing vehicles by mid-2008.

Gallery: Chinese manufacturers increase presence at NAIAS