By on August 10, 2011

Having been asked by a certain newspaper to review the new book “American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China [more info on that review coming soon], I’ve been spending my quiet moments over the last week or so looking into GM’s Chinese operations. The book’s author, Michael Dunne, documents GM’s rise in the Middle Kingdom from the perspective of a well-informed outsider, revealing just how delicate one of GM’s best-performing global maneuvers really was. But after following the rise of GM in China, Dunne notes the December 2009 announcement that GM was selling a 1% stake in its Shanghai-GM (SGM) joint venture to its Chinese partner SAIC (for the paltry sum of $85m no less), arguing that GM had made a dangerous leap of necessity. This sale, implies Dunne, could well have been the tipping point that leads to GM being surpassed by its erstwhile junior (in size, technology and global reach) partner, SAIC. And, in the words of “one GM executive who used to work in China,” GM would need

good luck getting that back.

But, back in June, GM CEO Dan Akerson told GM’s shareholder meeting that he wants to do just that, saying

We have an option to buy that 1 percent. It’s our intention to exercise that.

With Akerson’s announcement, the mystery of GM’s “golden share” sale deepened. At first the question was simply “why would GM sell its 1%?” but now there’s another mystery: why would GM want it back? After some digging, it seems that we are now able to resolve the first mystery, and report why GM sold its one percent. But the whole deal is still surrounded by several layers of mystery which conceal whether GM will in fact be able to regain its 50-50 partnership in SGM, why it would want to and whether its gambit was ultimately worthwhile. And given how important China has been (and continues to be) to GM’s global business, this is definitely an issue that GM- and industry-watchers will want to better understand.

(Read More…)

By on May 10, 2011

One of Bertel and my favorite Chinese car blogs, ChinaCarNews, has been reporting since October than the next-generation of MG/Roewe midsized sedans would be based on GM’s Global Midsized (Epsilon II) chassis (which underpins Buick LaCrosse/Regal and the new Chevy Malibu), and now the rest of the media appears to be catching up. From InsideLine to Autocar, everyone’s running with the story that MG/Roewe, which is owned by GM’s main Chinese partner SAIC, is working on an Epsi II-based MG7 for launch in the 2015 timeframe. According to InsideLine

[In 2015], the MG7/Roewe 750 sedan replacement appears some 15 years after the debut of the Rover 75 they’re based on. A coupelike four-door, it uses GM’s Epsilon platform and will be powered by 2.0 and 2.4 four-cylinder gasoline engines and a 1.9 diesel, all with dual-clutch transmissions.

GM and SAIC signed a Memorandum Of Understanding back in October [.DOC file here], which included the provision that, in addition to developing a next-gen electric architecture,

SAIC and GM anticipate sharing an additional vehicle architecture and powertrain application in an effort to help reduce development costs and benefit from economies of scale.

This could explain MG/Roewe’s rumored use of the Epsilon II chassis, but for the moment GM dismisses these rumors as “speculation.” And no wonder: even GM hasn’t announced when it will offer a dual-clutch transmission in its Global Midsized platform. Chances are, The General will want to offer that combination before its Chinese partners use it to beef up its MG/Roewe brands, which have been in product rehab for some time now.

By on May 4, 2011

China is getting a double dose of Volkswagen Passat. The new generation B7 Passat will hit China’s streets in a longer wheelbase version, to provide legroom for the boss in the back while the driver up front braves the crazy Chinese traffic. Just like the previous-gen B6, the car will be built by Volkswagen’s northern joint venture with FAW and will be sold under the Magotan name. “Passat” was already taken by Volkswagen’s southern joint venture, more on that below. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2011

Speaking from Shanghai, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland tells Bloomberg that “a number” of Chinese automakers have expressed interest in selling their products in the US, to which the auto safety regulator says:

When they offer their vehicle for sale, we will treat them like we will treat any company whether it is a Detroit company or a Japanese company or a Chinese company.

Strickland identified GM’s partner SAIC as one company that was interested in US sales, although the automaker says it’s waiting until it has “more suitable product” for the market. Chinese auto exports currently make up only 3 percent of production, a number the Chinese government wants to increase to 20 percent by 2012-2015. Separately, SAIC announced this week that it plans to invest some $1.85b into its hybrid, electric and fuel-cell technologies.

By on April 5, 2011

Would you believe that trading in China’s SAIC, joint venture partner of GM and Volkswagen, had been suspended since February now? Trading should resume soon, now that the world knows what the real reason for the monster halt is. It’s a long story. It all starts with the fact that there are two SAICs. (Read More…)

By on February 12, 2011

As reported here, GM’s and Volkswagen’s Chinese partner SAIC will halt the trading of its shares on Monday in anticipation of a major plan. The plan doesn’t appear to be fully hatched: According to People’s Daily, “SAIC will make an announcement on the plan in five trading days.”

But what’s that secret plan? Speculations by our commenters range from buying more of GM  to buying Saab. One of the Best & Brightest appears to be close to the truth – as far as we can fathom at this point. (Read More…)

By on December 13, 2010

Kevin Wale, head of GM China, confirmed what we had intimated a month ago: GM wants to give their Chinese joint venture partner SAIC access to GM’s sales network in the UK. “We have agreed in an MOU that we would discuss the potential for MG to be distributed in the UK,” said Wale to Reuters.

If the deal is signed, it would be unprecedented. (Read More…)

By on December 2, 2010

GM China, our recently no longer so reliable oracle for the Chinese market, raised its November sales by 11 percent, compared to an absolutely batty November 2009. 11 percent are not the same growth as the 109.5 percent GM China had recorded in last year’s November, but how much battier do you expect them to get? The more meaningful number is that for the first 11 months of 2010:  From January through November, GM’s China sales jumped 33 percent to a mind-blowing 2.17 million units. GM China will most likely close out the year in the 2.35 to 2.4m area – this is higher than the total sales of some of Europe’s larger countries, and definitely a whole lot more than GM sells back  home. Better get used to it. (Read More…)

By on November 23, 2010

Yesterday, Ed introduced us to the latest addition to GM’s brand portfolio, the BaoJun. Introduced in China, it is allegedly slotted below the Chinese Chevrolet and the Chinese Buick, and supposedly, it is targeted at “first-time buyers in the nation’s second- and third-tier markets,” or so the propaganda goes. The car is made by the SAIC-GM-Wuling (SGMW) joint venture. We’ve had our eyes on that brand for a while, and eyed it with interested suspicion. The suspicion seems to be warranted. (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2010

Observers who followed China’s SAIC coveting of shares in the upcoming GM IPO (only 3 days to go!), and who hoped/feared that SAIC would buy a big chunk of GM, will be disappointed/relieved to hear that SAIC is content with a more or less symbolical 1 percent share in the General.

Reuters has it on good authority (“four people familiar with the matter”) that SAIC and GM have reached an agreement in principle that cements the 1 percent deal. The deal is contingent on Chinese government approval, but this is expected to be fast tracked and should happen today before the U.S. even gets up.

So the big Chinese buy-in is just a lot of hot air? Wait until you hear what SAIC received as a deal sweetener. (Read More…)

By on November 12, 2010

GM appears to be sick of the constant needling it receives about their Wuling joint venture in China. Here is a company that produces half of the 2 million cars GM proudly announced as theirs in China, and GM owns only 34 percent. (The 37 percent that had been bandied about apparently were also exaggerated.) 50.1 percent are owned by SAIC, the rest by Wuling. Contractually, GM is entitled to pull the wool over the heads of the world and OICA, and count the millions of diminutive Wulings as theirs. Now, GM is taking steps to redeem themselves. Or to redeem some of the IPO take. But just a little. (Read More…)

By on November 10, 2010

When the all new GM share starts trading on 11/18, the bulk of the new issue will most likely not be owned by widows and orphans, but by foreign governments and their proxies. One of the largest new shareholders could be Chinese. GM is in the final negotiation stage to sell a good chunk of their new stock to their old pals and Chinese joint venture partners SAIC, reports Reuters, citing the usual “two people familiar with the matter.” And don’t think they are just talking percentages, there is much more on the table. (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2010

It’s a done deal, says Sinocast via Trading Markets. Chen Hong, president of China’s SAIC has gone to the US. He’s not there to visit Niagara Falls and Yosemite. He’s there to negotiate how much of SAIC’s  $5.7b in cash and cash equivalents will be converted into GM stock on November 18. (Read More…)

By on November 5, 2010

In the politically and emotionally charged discussion whether Chinese interests will buy a chunk of GM in their IPO, one decision appears imminent: Will SAIC, GM’s joint venture partner in China, take the bite or eschew the lure? India’s Economic Times, always with a wary eye on happenings on the other side of the Himalaya, says that “top Chinese automaker SAIC Motor is close to making a decision on whether to buy a stake in its long-time partner General Motors as the US auto firm goes public.” (Read More…)

By on October 21, 2010

Next year, the UK will get back a long lost son, who has found adoptive parents in China: The MG. Gasgoo reports that the MG6 Saloon will enter the British market in 2011. That was announced by Chen Zhixin, Executive Vice President of SAIC Motor and General Manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle Co., at the UK Pavilion of Shanghai Expo, while Ms. Carma Elliot, Consul General of the United Kingdom (UK) in Shanghai, was watching. Just Auto thinks the Chinese car with a British name will be shown to the UK public at the Top Gear Live MPH motor show at London’s Earls Court, on 4 November. (Read More…)

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