By on September 21, 2011

Conventional wisdom and Senator Stabenow have it that the wily Chinese are after precious Americans secrets of how to make new energy cars. Never mind that Ford and GM loudly deny that they have any current plans to build or sell electric vehicles in China. That appears at least half true in the case of GM. GM doesn’t have plans. Its plans are made in China. GM completely outsourced the development of electric vehicles – along with other future technologies – to China.

According to the Wall Street Journal, GM and its Chinese joint venture partner SAIC plan “to jointly develop all-electric vehicles and components. Electric vehicles developed under the new agreement would be sold under SAIC and Shanghai GM brands.”  A GM press release goes even further:

“Under the agreement, teams of SAIC, GM and PATAC engineers will work together to develop key components, as well as vehicle structures and architectures. 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.”

So it’s not that the Chinese are ransoming super secret technology. The Chinese will develop the technology jointly with GM engineers at the The Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), SAIC’s and GM’s engineering and design joint venture in Shanghai.

Currently, the board of GM is in Shanghai for a weeklong board meeting and negotiations with SAIC. While they are at it, they inaugurated another new research center in Shanghai.  Located next to the GM China Headquarters, the GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) “will carry out important research and development for GM on a worldwide basis.”

More than 300 employees, including engineers, designers, researchers and technicians, will develop GM’s future technology right here in China. Says the press release:

“The first phase – the Advanced Materials Laboratory Building – includes a battery cell testing lab, battery material lab, metallography and electrochemical lab, cell fabrication lab, and micro-foundry and formability lab. It will focus on research in lightweight materials and battery cells for the development of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, extended-range electric vehicles and other advanced technology vehicles.”

It was good that GM kept its U.S. President Mark Reuss out of the limelight when joint EV development in China was discussed. Back in the U.S.A., he said he wouldn’t let his children close to a pure EV. Asked by the Nashville Business Journal what he thinks of Nissan’s Leaf, which is scheduled to be built in Smyrna, 40 miles from GM’s mothballed Spring Hills plant, Reuss answered:

I’m not sure if I’d put the leaf in the hands of my three kids,” he said. “Say, what if they can’t charge it? What if they get to school and can’t charge it?”

In China, these concerns would be unfounded. Shanghai children officially are the smartest of the world. They know how to find a socket and how to insert a plug. Some of their parents even know how to develop an EV.

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

30 Comments on “GM’s Future Is Made In China...”


  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Senator, not Governor, but give the voters time. (Please delete when edited.)

  • avatar

    Confucious says… “Knock off better than knock down.”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    GM’s Future is Made in China – and the obvious headline award goes to…

    This just confirms what all of us with a pulse have known at least since the bailout or longer.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    We can call the bailout foreign aid at this point. At what price did We The People sell off our stake in GM, or do we still hold way too much of this company?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Obama’s stimulus plans have been huge successes! You just need to know who he was trying to help.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        You just need to know who he was trying to help.

        That’s right.

        China – gets new jobs in the automotive field

        Brazil – gets subsidized loans to produce oil from deepwater sites while we fight against a pipeline to bring Canadian oil to Texas refineries – damn Texans already have too many jobs – we need to spread the misery more effectively

        Brazil (again) – gets another potential source of ethanol and it’s subsidized by us

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      How incredibly ironic. The bailout’s harshest critics seem to have no problem with swelling the coffers of foreign countries through purchase of foreign-made vehicles, but when an American company decides to develop technology to sell vehicles in the world’s most important developing market, we hear nothing but cries of “foreign aid.”

      Could it be any more obvious that criticism of GM is driven on spite alone at this point?

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        Foreign made vehicles like the Fusion, Town and Country, and many GM models? Those foreign made vehicles?

        Or US made Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans and Hyundais?

        My spite stems from the 60B we gave these failures and the way the whole sordid mess was handled. Gm burned through 19B in cash while Cerebus ran Chrysler into the beach. Ford was the only honorable brand that borrowed 23 B to stay afloat, and now takes it’s profits to repay the loan.

        Just remember this isn’t any ordinary market, China is a country that competes with us every day, and would like nothing better than to dominate us. And now they do it with our funding.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Any foreign made vehicles. In a perfect world, if it wasn’t built here then it shouldn’t be sold here (regardless of nameplate) but I realize that is not going to happen any time soon. Your attempt to dodge my point about subsidizing foreign governments is dutifully noted as well. GM, Chrysler and Ford might assemble some vehicles abroad, but they pay taxes on every dollar earned, as well as contributing to the health of the national economy in myriad other ways. Hyundai, Honda, and Nissan willfully spirit capital out of the country and then open up one or two transplant factories with huge tax subsidies as a way of curtsying to the demand of American workers for jobs.

        If you were concerned about GM sending our technological resources abroad, maybe you should have supported American companies when it still counted rather than working to force them out of business. As it is, all the complaints are just noise from people with a personal emotional (and possibly financial) stake in the failure of the American auto industry.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        GM, Chrysler and Ford might assemble some vehicles abroad, but they pay taxes on every dollar earned

        You may want to talk to a tax accountant who understands the taxation of multinationals about that, as your claim is not accurate.

        Hyundai, Honda, and Nissan willfully spirit capital out of the country and then open up one or two transplant factories with huge tax subsidies as a way of curtsying to the demand of American workers for jobs.

        I hate to break it to you, but when GM bought Daewoo and dumped $4 billion into Fiat, the money didn’t stay under wraps in a vault in the Detroit suburbs.

        When Ford builds a factory in Mexico, you’ll be surprised to know that the money is going to, er, Mexico.

        Meanwhile, when Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, BMW and others build facilities in the US, the money is being spent in the US. Because it would kind of tough to build a factory here while investing nothing in the local economy in the process of building it and hiring workers to staff it.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        GM, Chrysler and Ford might assemble some vehicles abroad, but they pay taxes on every dollar earned, as well as contributing to the health of the national economy in myriad other ways.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if many Daewoo, Opel and SAIC employees agree with you that GM helps out their national economies.

        Hyundai, Honda, and Nissan willfully spirit capital out of the country and then open up one or two transplant factories with huge tax subsidies as a way of curtsying to the demand of American workers for jobs.

        Why pick on Asians? You don’t think Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen “willfully spirit capital” out of America as well?

        If you were concerned about GM sending our technological resources abroad, maybe you should have supported American companies when it still counted rather than working to force them out of business.

        If GM really cared about the American people, it would have treated Americans better than Hyundai, Honda and Nissan.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    My understanding is that this happened because GM didn’t want the Volt to be built in China and give up the technology to do so. Remember, GM still has advanced tech centers in the US doing battery and other EV research.

    This way, GM can have the best of both worlds, develop EVs with a partner that they might be able to sell in other geographies and not give up the technology that it currently has.

    Your assessment that this proves that the Chinese wasn’t after technology isn’t proved by this.

    • 0 avatar
      Trend-Shifter

      I agree with your comment and will add a few more.

      First GM had to appease the China government with “made in China” EV development and product. This opens the door to allow the Volt to be imported without any road blocks. Of course with a side promise to make the Volt here later.

      Second, the cost to produce the Volt in China would be too high at this time. They are still perfecting the present Volt production. At the same time they can test the China market with imports to see if the Volt (or Ampera) will sell. If it sells you had better bet they will set-up a factory in China.

      Third, they can make a dedicated EV vehicle in China,for the China market to keep in step with competitors like Nissan. China’s infrastructure will surely be in place fast once some good EV options are out there. GM/SAIC needs to have product at that precise moment and not a minute late.

  • avatar
    mike978

    “They know how to find a socket and how to insert a plug.” – US children also know how to do that. I am sure he meant what if there was no convenient power socket for them to plug their Leaf into. I am sure you knew that but decided to be sarcastic. A shame your sarcasm is always aimed at Americans.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    What do GM’s US engineers do all day? I know GM has engineers in the USA, but it seems like every new model of the past 10 years was designed in Korea or Europe, or China.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Sorry – were the trucks or SUV’s of the last 10 years engineered outside the US? I didn`t think so. Do you think Ford engineers sit around all day since the new Focus, Fiesta, Fusion and Escape are all from Europe?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Other than the trucks and the W-body, what vehicles that GM sells TODAY (in North America) were actually engineered in the U.S.A.?

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        Other than the trucks and the W-body, what vehicles that GM sells TODAY (in North America) were actually engineered in the U.S.A.?

        Volt, Corvette, CTS.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        Other than the trucks and the W-body, what vehicles that GM sells TODAY (in North America) were actually engineered in the U.S.A.?

        Volt, Corvette, CTS.

        I mean the DTS. The platform for the CTS, DTS and Camaro are based off of Holden engineered platforms.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      It’s quite possible that all of GM’s US engineers are “PowerPoint Engineers” and that their job description is to produce presentations for the numerous bean-counter meetings – leaving the mechanical engineering to the qualified staff in Korea.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        WShy do people persist in being know-nothings and denigrating US engineers (is this some perverse patriotism I am unaware of?). As has been stated quite a bit of GM’s sales are from US engineered products – SUV’s and trucks are a pretty major component and should not be easily dismissed. Also why in this world of globalisation should people be complaining that GM has R&D in other countries. Just like Toyota and others. It seems to be for GM damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Lets have some consistency in the criticism.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Why do people persist in being know-nothings and denigrating US engineers (is this some perverse patriotism I am unaware of?). As has been stated quite a bit of GM’s sales are from US engineered products – SUV’s and trucks are a pretty major component and should not be easily dismissed. Also why in this world of globalisation should people be complaining that GM has R&D in other countries. Just like Toyota and others. It seems to be for GM damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Lets have some consistency in the criticism.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Trucks and SUVs – what about the cars?

    I have a theory that one of GM’s biggest problems is that it doesn’t know how to manage its engineering talent. Look at what Hyundai manages to accomplish with a lot less money and a much smaller population base to work from.

    Ford has done somewhat better – lately. There was a time though that Ford was just as bad or worse. What was it $6-8 billion that they spent engineering the 1st generation Mondeo, an average car. Ford’s large cars still have a lot of Volvo DNA, and the small cars of course have some Mazda in them.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      No, GM’s biggest problem is that there are political forces opposed to the existence of the company purely out of ideological principle, who are now trying to undercut it’s success through any means possible. Do you really think the polemics against the Volt are in any way honest? No, it’s because there is a dedicated group of individuals that want to see GM fail purely for the sake of revenge. To deny their existence is to deny that half the comments on these kinds of stories have never been posted.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        +1 – people like CJ are a classic case of this. No consistency in their arguments. GM has no engineering talent, then when they do something ground breaking (2 years ahead of the Prius plug-in) they are criticized. They are criticized for being too dependent on trucks and SUV’s, then when they increase retail car sales those cars are criticized for being non-US engineered (just like the Camry is or the Civic but no complaint there).

        CJ has lost any credibility after his diatribe about Bob Lutz, wishing he would die a horrible death. This is not reasoned argument or debate.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      CDW27 cost 6G USD. This did include 4 variations on two body styles (4dr and wagon), 2 new V6′s and a new I4, new FWD trans, new steering column, and refitting 2 assy plants, 2 engine plants and a couple of transmission plants. And after the Company took so much heat on how much the programme cost, the Company refused to later reveal how much later programs cost.

      In comparison, a couple of years later, Chrysler reported that the PL program (Neon) cost them 600-700M USD.

      BTW, is it Cons Law, or Con Slaw?

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    @Pintofan: I agree with you about people having a grudge against GM. The Volt was never meant to be anything more than a generation 0 product, similar to the Tesla Roadster. If I had $40k+ to spend on a car, I perhaps would buy one. When you’re spending that much money on a vehicle you’re generally not doing for completely objective reasons.

    @Robert.Walter: I’ll give some points to Ford, they are still using the Mondeo platform for the Escape (for a little while, anyway).

    BTW, call me anything you want, just don’t call me late for dinner.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I also agree that there still are a lot of people out there with a grudge against the domestic automakers because of their past ownership experiences.

      That’s why it is so important that Ford actually listened to the criticisms expressed by Consumer Reports, et al, and actually improved their products. Most importantly, of course, is that Ford did not overtly accept bail out money. That goes a long way with the buying public.

      Aside from not wanting to reward the domestic auto manufacturers for their past performance, most buyers will choose to buy the products that work best for them and that reward them with the highest quality, most value and greatest content for their hard-earned money. Retained value is also a biggie.

      If I were to ever buy a domestic car or truck again, it would be a Ford. They’ve really come a long way under Mulally. GM can move to China because that is where their future is. Chrysler is just another foreign-owned car maker assembling in the US, like Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, BMW or Mercedes.

  • avatar
    wmba

    “I’m not sure if I’d put the leaf in the hands of my three kids,” he said. “Say, what if they can’t charge it? What if they get to school and can’t charge it?

    Well, they would have to pull out their iPhones and call you to come and get them in your Volt, Mr. Reuss. Obviously.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Given GM’s unblemished record of incompetent management, perhaps letting China manage things might have a future. I was acquainted with some retired GM engineers who are brilliant and willing to tell many stories of how the MBA cretins forced solid engineering ideas to the cellar… with obvious results.

    Can we build great cars? Certainly.

    Do we….’fraid not…although Ford is trying…..and (bowing my head), I really did love my 2005 “vette”.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India