By on November 22, 2012

That GM will launch an electrified Sail in China is no secret, at least not to TTAC readers. You won’t be surprised to hear that GM launched one at the Guangzhou auto show. The car is not the interesting part. The interesting part is the brand behind the car.

The car is called the Sail SPRINGO EV. Just like the Chevrolet Sail, the Sail SPRINGO EV is a purely Chinese development. It was designed by GM China’s Pan-Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), and it is built by the Shanghai GM joint venture. But it is no Chevrolet.

The big surprise is the brand behind the Sail SPRINGO EV. According to the press release, the brand is “Shanghai GM.” To those with branding experience, this is a revolution.  Normally, GM is a corporate entity and not a brand. Nowhere in the world can you buy a GM car, you need to buy a Chevrolet, or Buick, a Cadillac, Vauxhall, Holden, or Opel.

The choice of “Shanghai GM” as the brand for the EV is even more interesting considering that the Chinese government requests (or at least strongly recommends) that EVs are sold under a Chinese brand, if they want to qualify for subsidies and if its makers want to remain in the good graces of the Chinese government. All EVs developed by Chinese/Foreign joint ventures are sold under a new “Chinese” brand, owned by the joint venture. Nissan for instance has been on record that the Nissan Leaf will be made and sold under the Venucia brand, something Nissan reconfirmed yesterday to Reuters.

Apparently, Shanghai GM’s new Chinese brand is “Shanghai GM” – an unorthodox choice that flies in the face of all corporate identity rules, but a smart choice. New brands face a long uphill battle for name recognition and branding power, Shanghai GM won’t have that problem. The Sail SPRINGO EV had vexed observers with a new badge that looks like a stylized S, fuelling speculations that “Springo” could be the new electric vehicle brand. But then, that badge could also be an S and a G, for Shanghai GM …

The Shanghai GM Sail SPRINGO EV initially will be available in Shanghai only at a somewhat rich price of 258,000 RMB, or $41,500. Nevertheless, the car’s success is pretty much preordained. The car qualifies for a total of 100,000 RMB ($16,000) in incentives from the central government and the city of Shanghai. What’s more, the car comes with a free Shanghai license plate, something Shanghainese must pay up to $10,000 for. More than 60 percent of the car’s price is therefore covered by government incentives.

Driving the car is likewise a steal. Charging the car (7 hours off a standard 220 V socket) translates into a cost of 70 cents U.S. for 100 km (62 miles). The car is said to have a real-life range of 130 km (80 miles), and a maximum range of 200km (124 miles) under ideal conditions – perfect for a mega-city that measures less than 80 miles end to end. It also could turn into the ideal car to bring its owner to a real big car that is tagged and parked in one of the adjoining provinces.

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7 Comments on “GM Launches Chinese EV Under “Shanghai GM” Brand...”

  • avatar

    The EV1 and that Hy-wire concept car were branded GM, weren’t they?

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, that little fender square is VERBOTEN on all models.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The Chinese government is providing incentives and tax breaks to EV manufacturers is no surprise. In their smog- choked mega cities, it is a matter of survival, literally.
    And once that they develop these vehicles enough to make them competitive with ICE powered vehicles, they will start exporting them to the similar megalopolis, from Sao Paulo to Mumbai.

    • 0 avatar

      Two words say that EVs won’t be competitive with ICE powered vehicles unless there are revolutionary changes in materials science: energy density.

      • 0 avatar
        schmitt trigger

        You are correct about energy density.
        Perhaps my choice of words was not the best. What I meant to say was once that once that EVs are developed sufficiently, (still with some of the price/performance tradeoffs), the Chinese will have a lead start exporting them to cities which are self-suffocating in automotive exhaust.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I think this is a great strategic move for GM to embark on. China development is not hampered by the limitations imposed on US power plants and Plug-in Hybrids could be an ideal solution for China’s smog-choked cities as their electrical net expands.

      In the mean time, I am sure that some Chinese enterprising entrepreneurs have already figured out that the portable AC generators they depend on to get them through brown-outs and black-outs at home and in the office will work equally well to charge their Plug-in Hybrid.

      One reason Chinese AC generators are dirt cheap is because they mass-produce them by the tens of millions. They may not last as long as, let’s say a Honda or Yamaha generator, but no one rebuilds a Chinese generator. They just buy a new one and junk the old one.

      Once these purpose-built EVs catch on in China it is but one step removed from exporting them worldwide, including the US. If someone can provide the market with an EV in the $15K range, it becomes competitive with an ICE-powered car in that same price-range.

      I also believe that within a few years we’ll see more trailer-mounted generators to extend the range of pure EVs. I’ve already seen a couple of home-made jobs at the last Aspencade where high-quality inverter generators were mounted on little trailers used to tow behind a motorcycle that could be retrofitted to be towed behind an EV.

      In this particular case the generators I saw were used to provide electricity at a (motorcyclist) campsite for (induction) cooking and lighting. But it is only a very small step to running a 30-amp or 50-amp cord to charge an EV.

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