General Motors Co. says it plans to develop an electric vehicle with Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp., and it won't be just a copy of the Chevrolet Volt.
GM and SAIC announced the project in a statement today and during various media events from Shanghai this morning.
In a teleconference today with journalists, GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky confirmed that GM will form a 50-50 joint venture with SAIC to develop an EV for the Chinese market.
That vehicle will be designed by the Pan-Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), a design studio in Shanghai run by the two partners.
The EV will be a new vehicle, not an adaptation of an existing model like the Chevy Sonic, Girsky said. But he did not indicate whether the vehicle would be a small city car, when it would be introduced or how much it will cost.
"New technology is expensive and high-risk," Girsky said. "We will utilize our partners...to lower our risk and development costs, and bring technology to the market more quickly."
As the project moves forward, GM will move ahead with its plans to import small numbers of the Chevrolet Volt into China.
Girsky said GM hopes to persuade the Chinese government to extend its sales subsidy to imports such as the Volt. "We are hopeful that China will consider extending incentives to all vehicles in the future," he said.
Girsky also emphasized that the Chinese government has not pressured GM to share the Volt's technology with its Chinese partners.
GM's collaboration with SAIC, which was launched in 1997, has been profitable for both companies. SAIC now is China's largest domestic automaker, and GM is China's biggest foreign automaker.
The partners produce Buicks and Chevrolets for sale in China, and they also produce a commercial microvan called the Sunshine, China's top-selling light vehicle.
GM plans to introduce 60 new and upgraded models in the country during the next five years, the company said during the Shanghai auto show in April. GM and SAIC operate ten joint ventures in the nation.
Girsky said GM is confident that it can safely share its intellectual property with SAIC. "This is not the first time that we've brought intellectual property into China," Girsky said. "We work well with this partner."
Automakers including Daimler AG and Nissan Motor Co. have announced plans to add alternative-energy vehicles in China as the world's largest polluter seeks to reduce emissions. The government aims to have 1 million electric-powered vehicles on the road by 2015, according to the Ministry of Science.
Vehicle sales are forecast to slow this year in China, after sales-tax breaks and rebates for rural buyers ended in January and following central bank interest-rate rises.
Overall sales in the first eight months of the year rose 3.3 percent to 12 million units, with passenger-car sales gaining 6.1 percent to 9.2 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said on Sept. 9. Deliveries climbed 32 percent last year.
The Shanghai GM joint venture introduced the Chevy Sail electric concept vehicle late last year. Vehicles developed under the partnership will be sold in China under Shanghai GM and SAIC brands, and GM also will use the architecture to build electric vehicles globally.
The agreement finalizes a nonbinding memorandum on cooperation for green-vehicle development SAIC and GM signed last November. At the time, SAIC agreed to buy a 1 percent stake in GM through an initial public offering held to make GM a public company again and cut the U.S. Treasury's stake in the company.
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report.