The New York Times today highlighted comments (paywall) from Mary Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, pushing back on China’s ambitious goals to end the sale of fossil-fuel-burning vehicles, likely around the year 2040. She argued that it “works best when, instead of mandating, customers are choosing the technology that meets their needs.” This strategy, however, seems likely to disadvantage GM in China.
The Times notes that GM is “particularly vulnerable to any broad divergence of policy between China and the United States,” as they sell similar amounts of vehicles in both markets. The company has tried to hedge its bets by focusing on plug-in hybrids, but their long-drive capability has more appeal to Americans than to Chinese, as high-speed rail links major cities in China. Plus, the draft regulations for electric vehicles (EVs) specify a preference for battery-electric cars rather than plug-ins.
Other automakers seem to have gotten the message. Bloomberg notes that Ford and VW have both partnered with Chinese automotive groups to ramp up EV production in the country, and Tesla is also exploring options to manufacture cars in Shanghai. Caixin reports that VW is selling up to $60 billion in contracts to build electric batteries, and a Chinese battery-maker called Contemporary Amperex Technology is a front-runner in the bidding.
To be fair, GM is also producing some fully electric vehicles for the Chinese market. The problem, according to Bloomberg? They sold fewer than 20 EVs in China last year.
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Xiaomi and Wuhan
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