BEIJING -- General Motors is increasing efforts to build hybrid vehicles in China, and GM's Allison Transmission division and its suppliers will benefit.
GM and SAIC Motor Corp. agreed last week to explore ways to expand an existing hybrid bus development program. The two also committed to develop of passenger cars using alternative engines.
SAIC is GM's partner in seven joint ventures in China, including the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, which develops vehicles for the China market. The engineering and design center will build demonstration hybrid vehicles.
"We need to bring down the costs and build the necessary infrastructure," said GM CEO Rick Wagoner in a press release. "The best way to do that is by business and government working together."
The decision makes business as well as political sense.
The Chinese government is keen to develop more fuel-efficient engines to curb its growing appetite for imported oil and reduce pollution. An automotive policy released last year suggests preferential treatment for developers of fuel-efficient technologies.
GM and SAIC last October announced they would jointly develop a demonstration hybrid bus in Shanghai using powertrain technology from Allison. That vehicle will be finished by the end of this year.
GM and SAIC now hope to use that technology in a larger fleet of buses by the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.
GM and SAIC will also work to develop cars using hybrid technology and hydrogen fuel-cell technology. No further details were given on the car project. Fuel cells use hydrogen fuel to produce electricity.
Wagoner was in Shanghai for the annual meeting of the Shanghai mayor's international advisory council.
GM is not alone in its efforts to bring alternative engine technology to China.
Toyota Motor Corp. will begin assembling its Prius hybrid in China by the end of this year. Volkswagen AG announced in early September that it would work with Shanghai Volkswagen, a joint venture with SAIC, to develop a hybrid vehicle. VW is also aiming for a 2008 launch.
DaimlerChrysler AG is providing three fuel-cell buses to the city of Beijing for use until October 2007.