GM Considering Chinese Volt Assembly

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Doctor olds Doctor olds on Sep 28, 2011

    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!

  • NN NN on Sep 28, 2011

    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.

  • Philadlj Philadlj on Sep 28, 2011

    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.

  • Akear Akear on Oct 02, 2011

    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?

    • See 1 previous
    • Doctor olds Doctor olds on Oct 03, 2011

      GMNA certainly engineers more vehicles in NA than any other carmaker.