SHENYANG, China - Jinbei GM Automotive Co. has overcome a number of problems on its way to last week's launch of the Chevrolet Blazer.
The $230 million, 50-50 partnership between GM and FAW-Jinbei Automotive Corp., a unit of China's First Auto Works, has been contentious at times. An early attempt to build a pickup failed when GM discovered that a single-seat, two-door pickup was a nonstarter in China.
Now the venture is building an S10 Crew Cab pickup.
Jinbei itself went under before being taken over by FAW. Then, within the last month, FAW sold a stake of more than 30 percent in FAW-Jinbei to the Shenyang municipal government.
But those are just the formal bumps in the road. There have been a number of informal ones as well.
Jinbei GM wanted to give a Blazer to the mayor of Shenyang, who was riding around in a Mitsubishi Pajero, and to the local Communist Party secretary. But the offer happened to coincide with a national anti-corruption crackdown, and both men declined.
In a dress rehearsal a little over a week before the official line-off ceremony, the Blazer wouldn't start. Eventually, officials discovered that the engine-control module from Shanghai hadn't been programmed.
Jinbei GM was told it had to use an existing Jinbei plant rather than build a greenfield factory. After inspecting the facility, Jinbei GM kept the walls and the ceiling but otherwise gutted the building. It put on a new roof and tore the flooring out to the dirt before adding a new concrete floor.
Last winter, during construction of the plant, Shenyang was hit with its worst winter since 1955. Temperatures plunged to minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit, making it impossible to pour cement for the new floor.
Restrictions on the use of commercial vehicles on city roads initially meant that the S10 Crew Cab pickup could not be driven in parts of Shenyang itself. GM's lobbying has gotten that rule changed, but similar restrictions loom in other urban markets.