GM to localize Volt if demand picks up

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-01 15:40
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GM to localize Volt if demand picks up

Workers roll a Chevrolet Volt concept vehicle into position at an auto show. [Natalie Behring / Via Bloomberg] 

BEIJING - The Chevrolet Volt, GM's electric plug-in vehicle, "will be locally produced in China" if there is sufficient market demand, said a Shanghai GM executive on Tuesday.

"Local production of the Volt won't be a problem, in terms of technology. However, we need positive market feedback before we can put it into mass production," said Ding Lei, chief general manager of Shanghai GM, the US automaker's joint venture in China.

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He also told China Daily that local production of the Volt "is necessary" as GM views China as a key market to promote the widespread use of electric vehicles. "We need to lower the cost and price of the Volt through local production in order to commercialize it and not merely remain a concept model," said Ding.

Kevin Wale, president and managing director of GM China Group, said that the company will put the Volt on sale in China in the second half of next year, the first market outside the US, where the Volt will be launched at the end of this year.

"We have seen the Chinese government's efforts on promotion and support for new energy vehicles. We believe that China will take the lead in the development and use of electric vehicles in the near future," said Wale.

Chen Qingquan, chairman of the World Electric Vehicle Association, said that China will lead in the electric vehicle segment in the next 5 to 10 years, predicting that hybrid and pure electric automobile sales will account for more than 15 percent of the Chinese auto market by 2020.

"We hope with GM taking the lead, the development of electric vehicles will open entirely new industries in China," he added.

Pre-sales of the Volt started in the US in July. It is priced at $41,000, excluding a government subsidy of $7,000. The Chinese government has said earlier this year that it will provide subsidies up to 60,000 yuan ($8,812) per electric vehicle in China.

GM celebrated the arrival of the first fully operational Volt in China on Tuesday, by delivering two Volts to the Shanghai Expo Bureau for use as part of its VIP transportation fleet at Expo 2010 Shanghai.

The Volt is a GM Chevrolet model, which can be powered by battery for the first 60 kilometers of use, after which it can shift over to running like other gasoline-powered vehicles. It offers a total driving range of about 500 kilometers, and is powered by electricity at all times.

Japanese automaker Nissan also plans to bring its electric vehicle Leaf to China by providing test models for the Wuhan government.

A Nissan executive said that once local demand reaches 50,000 units, the company plans to start production of the Leaf in China.