Some American politicians wasted no time in rounding on US automaker General Motors recently, after the world’s biggest carmaker announced an alliance with China’s SAIC that will see the American company transferring key technologies to its Chinese partner. However, what some US legislators are seeing as vicious arm-twisting by the Chinese government in a bid to, essentially, steal vital American technology from Detroit is being seen by many others as a crucial move forwards for both the planet and for international commerce.
The furore in D.C. was kicked off a week ago when General Motors announced that it had inked a deal with China’s SAIC Motor Corp on the development of a new EV architecture in China. Under the agreement, which was signed in Shanghai on 20 September, GM and SAIC will work in partnership to develop key vehicle structures and components for China’s electric vehicle industry.
This was not, however, seen as progress by some politicians and pundits in the USA. Many accused China of forcing GM to hand over the keys to the larder so the US company would continue to enjoy access to the huge Chinese market for vehicle sales.
Executives at GM were quick to refute the allegations that it had either sold out or been forced to capitulate. They said the move was a simple commercial deal that would benefit both partners and, ultimately, help General Motors produce both superior products and better shareholder value.
The deal creates the PATAC, or Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center. Based in Shanghai, the PATAC will see GM and SAIC contribute know-how and resources in a bid to develop the future of electric vehicles in China.
SAIC is contributing its local expertise and market knowledge. GM is bringing its global experience and skill, as well as its expertise in developing electric vehicles.
The deal will lead to the first electric-vehicle architecture developed in partnership by the two firms. The two companies already worked together on a Shanghai GM joint venture that produced an electric concept vehicle called the Sail.
The agreement will see teams of engineers from GM, SAIC and PATAC working jointly to develop various key components. They will also produce vehicle architectures and structures.
The SAIC-GM partnership will produce vehicles to be marketed under the SAIC and Shanghai GM brands in China. The vehicle structures and architectures generated in the partnership will also be applied by SAIC and GM in the production of electric vehicles around the world.
Details concerning the anticipated products and when they will appear will be released later. The need for ever more effective electric vehicle technologies is increasing all the time as countries around the globe, including China, introduce increasingly tight regulations on fuel consumption and emissions.
China’s SAIC Motor Corp is the biggest vehicle manufacturer to be listed on the A-share market in China. With sales of 3.58 million vehicles in 2010, SAIC is the leading automotive group in its home country.
General Motors, meanwhile, is coming back strongly from the bankruptcy under which it was re-organised with help from the US taxpayer. Though Japan’s Toyota became the world’s number-one automobile producer several years ago, pushing GM into second place, the US company recently regained the top spot, after Toyota’s Japan production was hit by the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.