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GM looks east for all-new EV

Hands down: SAIC and GM chiefs seal a deal to jointly develop a new electric vehicle architecture in Shanghai.

Chinese joint venture gets the nod to develop GM’s all-new electric vehicle platform

21 Sep 2011

GENERAL Motors has signed a deal to co-develop an electric car with its Chinese joint venture partner, SAIC Motor Corp, joining an apparent rush by western car-makers to jump-start electric vehicle (EV) development in the world’s biggest motor market.

Toyota and Hyundai are also reportedly working on EV ventures with partners in China where such vehicles can attract large subsidies and preferential treatment from government fleets, provided they are built by Chinese companies and sold under Chinese brands.

The new GM-SAIC vehicle – to be developed at the partners’ Pan-Asia Technical Automotive Centre (PATAC) in Shanghai – will be an all-new architecture, not a variation of an existing car such as the Volt.

GM also has confirmed that the EV platform will spawn models to be offered by both GM and SAIC outside China, as well as in the Chinese domestic market.

GM Holden director external communications Emily Perry said such a vehicle would be considered for Australia, as long as a business case could be made.

GM – the biggest foreign brand in China – sold 2.35 million vehicles there last year and hopes to double that to around five million by 2015.

The GM-SAIC EV joint development is a first for GM and SAIC, whose partnership has risen to number one in the Chinese market on the back of GM-designed vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Sail and Aveo and Buick Excelle, Lacrosse and Regal.

The announcement of the new venture was made in Shanghai where the GM board this week met for the first time, underlining the increasing importance of China to GM.

The deal was signed by SAIC chairman Hu Maoyuan and GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.

 center imageLeft: The Chinese-made Chevrolet Sail. Below: The Australian-designed GM EN-V Xiao electric vehicle showcased at Shanghai Expo 2010.

GM international operations president Tim Lee said the co-development of the new electric vehicle architecture demonstrated the broad range of benefits made possible by the strong partnership between SAIC and GM.

“For almost 15 years, our two companies have forged some of the industry’s most successful joint ventures,” he said.

“This unprecedented level of cooperation is another demonstration of our companies’ commitment to work collaboratively.”

SAIC Motor president Chen Hong said the deal would take advantage of SAIC-GM economies of scale and get new technology to the market faster than by going it alone.

“It will help bring about our goal of leading the automotive industry in new energy vehicles and our vision of sustainable transportation, which we introduced at World Expo 2010 Shanghai.”

GM said the agreement would leverage SAIC’s market knowledge and local expertise along with GM’s expertise in electric vehicle development and global know-how.

Teams of SAIC, GM and PATAC engineers will work together to develop key components, as well as vehicle structures and architectures.

Said GM in a media release: “Vehicles resulting from the partnership will be sold in China under Shanghai GM and SAIC brands.

“SAIC and GM will also use the architecture to build electric vehicles around the globe for their own purposes.

“Product details and timing will be announced at a later date.”

SAIC and GM are already partners in 10 joint ventures in China, including vehicle and powertrain manufacturing, sales and aftersales, automotive engineering and design, automotive finance, telematics and used vehicles.

The latest project – funded 50/50 – delivers on a pledge signed by GM and SAIC last year to collaborate on the development of “new-energy vehicles”.

Late last year, GM and SAIC revealed the Sail electric concept vehicle developed at PATAC.

Earlier this month, the China Car Times carried images allegedly leaked from the Chinese patent office that are purported to be of the production version of the GM-SAIC Sail EV.

The wagon-style hatchback – based on the Chevrolet Sail small car launched in early 2010 – is shown with an S-shaped badge, leading to speculation in the Chinese media that the vehicle might be launched under a new sub-brand, rather than Chevrolet, Buick or some other existing GM or SAIC brand.

However, the Sail EV is unlikely to be the vehicle mentioned in the latest deal, as it uses existing GM vehicle architecture and appears to be all ready for launch, perhaps this year.

The Sail EV concept that was revealed at the 2010 Guangzhou motor show was powered by a lithium-ion battery, with maximum output of 65kW and maximum torque of 220Nm.

It had a claimed maximum speed of 130km/h and a range of 150km.

Similar speculation surrounds images of what appears to be an electrified version of the Toyota Crown that also turned up out of the patent office in China.

In this case, the vehicle displays a badge with a prominent ‘V’, leading journalists to speculate that the vehicle will be offered in a new all-electric sub brand in a joint venture between Toyota and its Chinese partner First Automobile Works (FAW).

And as GoAuto has reported, Hyundai and its Chinese partner BAIC are allegedly preparing an electric vehicle brand, with cars to be built at a new factory being constructed near Beijing.

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