SHANGHAI -- General Motors plans to buy more electric vehicle parts from China and use those parts in global models within a few years.
GM is developing an EV supplier base in China and will validate parts there for global use, says Ray Bierzynski, executive director of electrification strategy at GM China.
"We will look at key areas -- battery systems, traction drive systems, control systems -- and help and encourage the local supply base so we can have strong local suppliers for both GM in China and globally," Bierzynski said in an interview.
GM is developing an EV architecture in China with SAIC Motor Corp. of Shanghai. GM and SAIC will use the architecture globally for their own purposes, the companies said when they announced the development agreement in September.
The architecture will be developed at the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, or PATAC, a 50-50 design and engineering venture in Shanghai between GM and SAIC. PATAC also will validate EV parts sourced in China, says Bierzynski, who previously headed PATAC.
GM is always looking for the "best value source" for parts, Bierzynski says, and needs to develop local suppliers to meet the Chinese government's localization requirements for foreign automakers. The suppliers have not been determined, he says.
They are likely to be local companies that are cooperating with foreign suppliers, says Bill Russo, president of Synergistics Ltd., a consulting firm in Beijing.
"I believe the Chinese supply base will eventually catch up given the investments that are being made, but they will require more foreign investment and know-how in this space," he says.
GM will evaluate China-made EV batteries at its wholly-owned Advanced Technical Center in Shanghai, Bierzynski says. The center opened in September and has a battery cell testing lab and a battery materials lab.
"We can test Chinese supplier cells against our standards to ultimately qualify them for use in General Motors vehicles, whether that is in China or globally," he says.
The China-made parts should show up in China in electric versions of the Chevrolet Sail in 2012 and the Chevrolet Spark in 2013, says Michael Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting at LMC Automotive Ltd. The electric Sail will be sold only in China. The electric Spark will be sold in the United States beginning in 2013 and Europe in 2014, Omotoso says.
In 2010, China announced ambitious plans to grow its electrified vehicle sector, aiming to have 5 million EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2020. Despite a flurry of activity by domestic automakers, few vehicles are available to consumers. The market in China for electrified vehicles is limited almost exclusively to buses and taxis.
GM will go with the flow, Bierzynski says. The company still believes EV volumes in China will represent a "significant percentage as we go from 2012 to 2020," he says.
Adds Bierzynski: "We don't know exactly what government policy may bring. We are prepared in all the categories. We can adapt as implementation roles out."