By on September 27, 2011

The Detroit News‘s David Shepardson has a way of being on hand with a microphone whenever GM CEO Dan Akerson lets loose with a memorable line, and today he has Akerson telling a Bloomberg News Forum that the green star of the American auto turnaround, the Chevy Volt, could be built in China within a few years. Said Akerson

We’re going to export into China for probably a year or two and see if it gets a take … if customers set the right usage patterns. If it does, we may manufacture it there.

As Bertel has noted, GM is outsourcing future EV development to its Chinese joint ventures, but this is the first time we’ve learned that the Volt could be made in the Middle Kingdom. In fact, just two weeks ago, GM said concerns voiced by Senator Stabenow (and echoed by Rep Slaughter in the video above) about Chinese technology demands, didn’t apply because it had no plans to build the Volt in China.

But why would GM hand Chinese firms the technological secrets to the car it insists is the future of transportation, when it could export it from the US and keep dreams of a US green car renaissance alive? Well, other than the fact that the Volt is about twice the price it needs to be to be a “gamechanger” and nobody will build it cheaper than China. Besides, we’re still waiting on evidence that China is actually going to take technology in exchange for EV market access. In other words, cheap labor and big subsidies mean it’s just a matter of time before the green icon of America’s Great Auto Bailout starts being built in China.

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26 Comments on “GM Considering Chinese Volt Assembly...”

  • avatar

    Chinese manufacturing…another reason NOT to buy a Volt…when is America going to wake up. No place in America can compete with the cheap labor of China, nor should we aspire to. All that means is that our standard of living will further slide into the dumpster. Not to mention that they will steal the technology…remember our spy plane…the one that was forgotten because it happened right before 9/11?

    • 0 avatar

      I read this to mean that if the Chinese start buying the Volt, the Volt will be made there for the Chinese market, not that the Volt won’t be made here.

      • 0 avatar
        gator marco

        Which Chinese is Husky writing about?
        The Chinese who lost a jet airplane when it collided with an American propeller driven plane? Yeah, lots of great 1950’s technology to steal. Oh, the spy stuff inside? That was destroyed before the plane landed.
        OR The Chinese who can put a man into space, where as the good ole USA has to borrow 1960’s Russian rocket technology to hopefully, maybe, put some replacement astronauts up.

        If the Chinese really want to steal technoogy off the Volt, then they can just buy one and tear it down, just like every other car manufacturer.

  • avatar

    they need to produce it there. Akerson committed to ramping up production of the darn thing and it ain’t sellin’, nor will it as a Cadillac. what else to do with spare parts?

  • avatar

    Good lord! Every car company takes other car companies’ products apart to see what makes them tick. Only a ridiculous paranoia and a complete non-understanding of technology could lead politicians (or anybody else) to wring their hands about losing “technology” to the Chinese. This is a damn consumer product. You can buy one. How darn secret is that?

    I gotta say, some of TTAC’s articles today are just plain weird. You got a Ford ad “conspiracy” which is going nowhere, you believe that VW pantomime about Hyundai steering column adjusters, and this: ooh, we’re scared about the Chinese and our industrial “secrets”.

    Let’s have some reasonable interpretation in the usual TTAC fashion, rather than flights of fancy. Check the list of SAE papers and conferences to see that the engineers from all companies and many universities blab all their secrets to each other several times a year. The industry does not live in a vacuum. Observers need to apply some basic commonsense to these stories.

  • avatar

    There’s some of our bailout bucks…

    • 0 avatar

      I think this story is important. Exactly what I was thinking. Forget the Chinese “taking” technology. That’s a company we helped save that is then going to set up a factory with the biggest economic competition in the world. I understand labor is cheap as shit there, and it’d make GM a good profit, but with the common rhetoric talking about jobs going overseas, and “job creation” isn’t it a little insulting for GM to consider this?

      Exporting the cars I get. Sell em wherever. But keep the money coming to the US, from inside the US (to avoid those darn tax loopholes they love).

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @CurseWord- Don’t assume a zero sum game. Participating in China’s growth does not harm us. GM is doing very well in China, and that brings profits to the U.S. As a matter of fact, GM and Chrysler are hiring thousands of engineers to develop technology right here, in part to support production globally.

        GM has a very long history of local production in markets around the world, though the new conditions are enabling export of vehicles such as Volt (Opel/Vauxhall Ampera) and higher volume Malibu. around the world.

      • 0 avatar

        GM already has factories there. Selling a few hundred (guessing on the number) Volts there in 2-3 years isn’t going to really make a difference.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t sound like they’re going to export it back into the US, just that if they like it in China, they’ll build it in China for the Chinese market. No big deal. I think even GM realizes how ironic it would be to move everything to China after barking about “American jobs” during the bailout era.

  • avatar

    The idea that Government Motors will one day be wholly owned and operated by the Chinese isn’t crazy talk anymore.

  • avatar

    So much for Buy American.
    Yeah I bought a car made in Japan. At least I know who made it, where it was made, and what it is.
    Try and figure out what your American car contains in parts, who made it, where it came from and most importantly did the people who assembled it give a crap about making it in the first place.

    Coming soon: Cars made by slave labor in China,

    • 0 avatar

      Meanwhile, over at the Toyota camp

      or at the Volts rival

    • 0 avatar

      Could you be a bit more specific here? Japanese cars can be made in the US, Japan, or Mexico. They all have parts that come from China. So what is the difference that you speak of?

      No one is saying that the Volt would be exported from China to the US. I read it as that the Volt might be made in China for the Chinese market.

  • avatar

    Did Matt Drudge take over TTAC this morning??

  • avatar

    How many Chinese kids made your car today?

    GM’s title got pawned for Chinese dough!

    With this damn bailout I’m smellin’ a rat!

    If we keep Obama, we’ll be permanently screwed!

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    The People’s Republic of China (PRC)requires all foreign carmakers joint venture with Chinese companies. That is the price of entry to the largest volume car market in the World. The U.S. is still, by far, the highest $ market due to much richer product mix!

    50/50 is the best you can do if you want to sell cars in China.

    The PRC demanded GM share Volt technology to be allowed to sell it there and receive the $19+K “green” incentive.

    GM refused to share the technology, and as a matter of fact, will certainly continue to develop the most advanced technologies right here in Michigan.

    GM has achieved a compromise that allows Volt to be sold there in exchange for partnering with SAIC to jointly develop EV technology. This is NOT handing the technology to them, but assisting them in managing local development. GM is not sharing the most advanced Volt technologies.

    The PRC stood firm that the Volt will not receive the $19K incentive unless GM also shares the technology. Congress should intercede on this kind of requirement for the sake of Ford and Chrysler, too.

    WRT Volt sales- GM planned to produce around 11,000 the first model year. For perspective, much simpler Prius first year volume was 8,500. Volt’s production was hurt by availability of a Japanese sourced subcomponent as a result of the tsunami. That problem is history.

    GM is working hard to increase production to meet demand. Low sales are simply the result of low availability, despite dealer Ads that seem to imply otherwise. Most dealers don’t have a single one to demo. Planned first year production is around 2-3 per dealer by the end of the model year!

  • avatar

    don’t worry folks, Volt won’t be made in China because no one in China will buy it–at least for the next 10 years or so. Chinese electrical grid is beyond maxed out now and they have regular brownouts during the summer. Until massive amounts of new energy is supplied to the grid, a plug in car will not by any means be practical…and you can buy regular gas powered cars for less than 1/2 the cost of a Volt that do better mpg’s.

    Plus, the majority of urban Chinese live in highrises, which also means that if they are even lucky enough to have a parking spot they won’t have access to a plug anywhere near their parking spot.

  • avatar

    Geez…from some of the comments, you’d think that this was the headline:

    “GM To Move All Volt Production from Detroit To China”

    The only thing that’s certain from Akerson’s quote is that Volts will be exported to China for a couple years. Imported from Detroit, not China.

    A Volt imported from Detroit probably won’t sell well, because of the import duty. It will be even more overpriced there than it is here. The Prius, so popular elsewhere, hasn’t found a large audience there.

    If the imported Volt sells well – far from a certainty – he says they may…may manufacture the Volt in China.

    He said nothing about shutting down Detroit production. Nothing about importing Chinese Volts to the U.S.

    What I don’t understand is, how does Akerson think a Volt carrying a higher price will sell well enough in China – where the Prius is a failure, mind you – to warrant building a production facility there?

    Let’s go to the quote that supposedly contradicts Akerson’s quote:

    GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company has no plans to build the Chevrolet Volt in China.

    Akerson is only contradicting Martin if you believe “if” means “when”, or “may” means “will”.

    GM has plans to export Volts to China for now. That’s it.

    They may be considering plans to build it there, but those plans depend on “if it gets a take” and “if customers set the right usage patterns.”

    Considering plans. Having plans. Different things.

  • avatar

    GM North America is a hollow entity that can barely design and engineer a car from the ground up. They have basically become to resemble Wal-Mart by importing and selling foreign technology. With the exception of a few trucks, some Cadillac’s, and the Corvette, GM is unable to create anything in the US. I would say 80% of their current lineup is foreign sourced.

    Wagoner and Lutz have made this once proud company utterly worthless. Why is Putz back?

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