GM's Future Is Made In China

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

More by Bertel Schmitt

Join the conversation
2 of 30 comments
  • Wmba Wmba on Sep 22, 2011

    “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.

  • Da Coyote Da Coyote on Sep 22, 2011

    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".

  • Duke Woolworth The advantage of EVs is the luxurious quiet, even in the cheapest/smallest ones. Passengers can speak in normal volume, and the quiet is less stressful. And no oil changes.
  • Akear They may sell 3500 annually. After a few years it will be gone. Why would anyone in their right mind purchase this over a Prius.
  • Slavuta American capitalism model - public investment, private profits
  • Slavuta This is what BlackRock was supposed to do, not the taxpayer money. Then they will tell us we don't live in socialism for oligarchs. For everyone else - eat zee bugs
  • ToolGuy Only $2.7 million per job.