China Watch : General Motors and SAIC Motor deepen ties

Automotive News Europe/Reuters, 18th August, 2010

SGMW’s Demo Car: the basis for the new Baojun brand’s first model and for an Austin or Morris revival?

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – General Motors Co. and China’s SAIC Motor Corp. deepened their ties to include the joint development of small engines and transmissions as the U.S. automaker seeks to draw on the allure of the fast-growing China market ahead of a highly anticipated IPO.

The agreement, announced by the two automakers in Shanghai on Wednesday, marks a further expansion of their successful 13-year partnership after they agreed in December to set up a joint venture in India to make small cars and commercial vehicles.

The latest deal paves the way for GM to meet demand for small city cars in emerging markets and cut the costs of developing fuel-saving technologies for the U.S. market, where it faces the challenge of meeting tough new fuel economy standards by 2016.

Analysts have said potential investors in the top U.S. automaker will be looking in part at how it manages a strategy for sustained growth in the Chinese auto market, now the world’s largest.

The GM-SAIC partnership is the most successful one in China’s auto industry. There is a big chance that SAIC may take a stake in GM and bring their relationship to the next level.” Sheng Ye, Associate Research Director, Ipsos’s Greater China region

GM is expected to announce plans for a public offering of stock in a filing with securities regulators as soon as Wednesday that will allow the Obama administration to reduce its 61 percent stake in the automaker. The IPO could provide another opportunity to bring GM and SAIC Motor even closer together, industry observers said.

“The GM-SAIC partnership is the most successful one in China’s auto industry. There is a big chance that SAIC may take a stake in GM and bring their relationship to the next level,” said Sheng Ye, Associate Research Director at industry consultancy Ipsos’ Greater China region.

Asked about SAIC Motor’s interest, SAIC Motor Chairman Hu Maoyuan said on the sidelines of a news conference: “We cannot comment on whether we will participate in GM’s IPO before we study the details of the IPO.”

SAIC Motor shares jumped 4 percent after news of the joint development deal, and were the biggest gainer on the CSI 300, one of the market’s benchmark indexes.

Engines, transmissions to be used globally

Under the deal, GM and SAIC Motor will develop engines with displacements of from 1.0 to 1.5 litres in a collaboration of engineers in Detroit and at their engineering and design joint venture in Shanghai. The engine will be used by GM and SAIC Motor in China and worldwide in the future.

Engine and transmission systems – known as vehicle powertrain systems – are typically the most expensive parts of a new vehicle programme with costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition to cost savings, the new project with SAIC Motor could expand GM’s foothold in China, where it had been competing with Volkswagen AG and others mostly in the mid- to high-end segments, leaving the burgeoning lower end to local brands.

“There is no doubt that GM and SAIC may eventually launch small cars globally, but they would most likely focus on the China market to begin with,” said Boni Sa, an Analyst with IHS Automotive.

There is no doubt that GM and SAIC may eventually launch small cars globally, but they would most likely focus on the China market to begin with.” said Boni Sa, Analyst, IHS Automotive.

China has become the most important market for many global automakers, with sales still growing at a fast clip thanks to Beijing’s policy to stimulate demand, especially in smaller cities.

The new GM-SAIC Motor engines will twin direct injection and turbocharging to boost fuel efficiency and performance. Combined with the transmission also to be developed with SAIC Motor, the new powertrain would improve fuel consumption by up to 20 percent, GM said.

Industry observers said the new engines could be initially used by SAIC GM Wuling Automobile Company Limited (SGMW), the Liuzhou-based JV which manufactures the successful Wuling range of small commercial vehicles and minivans and which last month unveiled its first car brand, Baojun. The new brand is targeting the entry segment, where companies such as Chery Automobile Company Limited and Geely Automobile Holdings Limited dominate.

[Source: Automotive News Europe/Reuters]

[Editor’s Note: AROnline reckons that this story raises three interesting questions which may be of relevance to SAIC Motors’ plans for the future of the MG brand:- 1) will the new 1.0 to 1.5 litre GM-SAIC Motor engines referred to in the article be based upon the new SAIC Motor-developed NSE family of engines which will power the forthcoming MG3 and MG5? 2) will either Austin or Morris be revived as a global entry-level brand and used instead of the new Baojun brand outside China? 3) what impact would SAIC Motors’ ownership of a post-IPO stake in General Motors have on the company’s plans for the future of MG and MG Birmingham?]

Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

2 Comments on "China Watch : General Motors and SAIC Motor deepen ties"

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  1. Ianto says:

    This can only be a good thing – GM engines will give the MG and Roewe cars reliability and power.

  2. @Ianto
    Agreed – a closer technical relationship between General Motors and SAIC Motor should be a good thing for both companies.

    However, AROnline suspects that the real story here may be that the new engines concerned will be based upon the SMTC UK-developed NSE family of engines – to describe them as General Motors engines might, in that case, be inaccurate.

    Anyway, we intend to undertake some further research into the details of the agreement concerned and hope to report back in due course.

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