DETROIT -- General Motors expects to face some, but not all, of the same challenges in deploying electric vehicles across China as it does in the United States.
GM China President Matt Tsien said the company must navigate fluid federal incentives, a lack of infrastructure and consumer understanding and acceptance of EVs in the world's largest automotive market -- issues the company and other automakers are confronting domestically.
"China, I think, is clearly still a work in progress," Tsien told reporters Wednesday at GM's headquarters here. "If you look at the journey, we're really just at the beginning of that journey from a Chinese perspective."
An advantage GM and others have in China that they don't have in the U.S. is the full support of the Chinese government, which has made EVs a priority to encourage the purchase and deployment of EVs to reduce carbon emissions.
"The Chinese government is quite determined to have this electrification materialize," Tsien said. He added China feels "it has just as much of an opportunity" to become a leader in the space as traditional automakers because it's an emerging market.
Also helping push consumers to what China calls “New Energy Vehicles” (EVs and plug-in hybrids with at least 31 miles of electric range) is the price of gasoline.
Tsien said fuel prices in China costs twice as much or more than in the U.S.
About 700,000 NEVs were sold in China in 2017, according to Tsien.
The government last year announced a credit-score program tied to the production of NEVs that will begin in 2019. An automaker’s score must be comprised of at least 10 percent NEVs or the company will be forced to buy credits or face fines.
Tsien said he is “very confident” GM can meet those requirements.
GM and its local partners sold more than 4 million vehicles for the first time ever in China last year, but only 11,000 EVs. In the U.S., the company sold 3 million vehicles, including nearly 24,000 Chevy Bolt EVs.
GM's EV plans
China and the U.S. are seen as GM's two main hubs for deploying at least 20 EVs or fuel cell vehicles by 2023. GM has not detailed the vehicles, but Tsien said China will receive "a substantial proportion" of the vehicles.
His comments are in line with those made by the heads of Buick and Cadillac, who have said they expect their brands to play a main role in GM's EV strategy.
Pamela Fletcher, GM vice president of global electric vehicle programs, reiterated that the strategy is "a multibrand, multiregional solution" for the deployment of EVs.
"We will have global entries, we will have some specific [regional] entries," she said during the event Wednesday with Tsien. "We have to figure out the right thing for the right customer and the right segment. "