Two days ago, we told you that Senator Debbie Stabenow was barking up the wrong tree when she again fingered China for “attempting to pressure American automakers, including General Motors and Ford, to transfer core technologies of their electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to Chinese companies, in order for those vehicles to qualify for China’s clean energy vehicle incentive program.” Both Ford and GM quickly and as diplomatically as possible said it isn’t so, simply because neither of them has any plans to build electric vehicles in China. Now it turns out that Stabenow was barking up the wrong forest: Nissan will export its Made in Japan Leaf to China. And the Chinese clean energy incentive program looks like a non-starter.
Last week in Yokohama, Kimiyasu Nakamura, president of Nissan’s China joint venture, remarked that the Leaf will be exported from Japan to China. Wasn’t everybody, especially Ms. Stabenow and the New York Times, from which the senator seems to get her intel, convinced that the Chinese will never allow imports of EVs, and will insist on EVs that are made under Chinese brands?
Well, pair a Brazilian-Lebanese hard-charging businessman with Chinese state-owned enterprise managers, and you get a deal and something done. In July, Carlos Ghosn of Nissan/Renault cut a face-compliant deal with Chinese joint venture partner Dongfeng to make a Chinese EV under the Venucia brand – by 2015. Give a little, get a little: Now, the Leaf can be imported. China Car Times heard the car may even hit the stores after the October holidays.
From what we are hearing, nobody is looking for huge numbers at this moment, but import is import. Once it makes sense, the plug-in Leaf will be produced in China. It sounds like a “first to market” and “show the flag” exercise. There could be some desperate buyers in Beijing who pay the high price (the guesses are around $30,000) in order to by-pass the license plate lottery. A made in China Leaf and a “Chinese” Venucia EV should be much cheaper. Especially after incentives. If and when they come.
It had been awfully quiet when it comes to Chinese EV incentives. All kinds of proposals, drafts and rumors of impending announcements had been swirling around, but no action followed. Incentives of up to $18,000 had been bandied about. The official announcement is long overdue. Edmunds says the incentives may never come. Or much later than expected:
“Beijing appears to be on the verge of doing a U-turn on its support for plug-in vehicles, in light of the fact they have proven enormously unpopular despite hefty government incentives to by them. Premier Wen Jiabao said in July’s issue of Qiushi, a leading Communist Party magazine, that “it remains uncertain whether hybrid and electric cars, which are now the focus of much of the development, will be the winners in the end.” He cited “problems with their technical path, problems with core technologies, problems with investment, problems with policy support.” Meanwhile, intense debate broke out between influential Chinese bureaucrats over the future of the country’s green-car industry, with officials of the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) bitterly arguing in public. The NDRC’s Li Gang pulled no punches, referring to the “hopeless” prospects of the country’s “garbage technology” for electric cars.”
Nobody is expecting that China will give up its long term plans for electric cars. But even in today’s faster paced China, long term plans can take a while. No wonder Ford and GM have no immediate plans.