General Motors and SAIC Motor Corporation Ltd have signed an agreement for the co-development of electric vehicle architecture in China. It’s a groundbreaking – and some would say controversial – arrangement as currently, it seemed favoured in the direction of the Chinese, with the US company’s current production technology outstripping that of its Chinese partner (think Vauxhall Ampera vs Roewe 750 Mild Hybrid).
But as MG’s parent company, will the SAIC/GM electric technology trickle down into the British-badged company’s range of cars? It’s a safe bet, considering the next generation large MG7/Roewe 750 is to be based on a GM platform, confirming closer ties in the production arena between the two companies.
The co-development programme sees the creation of The Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) – SAIC and GM’s engineering and design joint venture in Shanghai. This will serve as the development centre for the architecture. Joint teams from the parent companies will also cooperate on the development of key components and vehicle structures. Any likely MG versions will probably be conceived and developed here before being fine-tuned at Longbridge for European consumption.
Under the agreement, teams of SAIC, GM and PATAC engineers will work together to develop key components, as well as vehicle structures and architectures. Vehicles resulting from the partnership will be sold in China under Shanghai GM and SAIC brands. SAIC and GM will also use the architecture to build electric vehicles around the globe for their own purposes. Product details and timing will be announced at a later date.
The electric vehicle architecture will be the first to be co-developed by the two companies. Their Shanghai GM joint venture introduced the Sail electric concept vehicle late last year. Establishing PATAC as the engineering lead for the electric vehicle architecture demonstrates not just the strength of the GM-SAIC partnership, but also the confidence and trust the companies have in one another to accomplish an aggressive and challenging project.
Accelerating the introduction of roadworthy technologies such as this future electric vehicle architecture is more important than ever, following the announcement of a number of more stringent emission and fuel consumption regulations around the world, including China.
The agreement will leverage SAIC’s market knowledge and local expertise along with GM’s expertise in electric vehicle development and global know-how. It will ensure local input in the development of electric vehicle technology and the delivery of products developed in China.
‘The co-development of this new electric vehicle architecture demonstrates the broad range of benefits made possible by the strong partnership between SAIC and GM,’ said Tim Lee, president of GM International Operations. ‘For almost 15 years, our two companies have forged some of the industry’s most successful joint ventures. This unprecedented level of cooperation is another demonstration of our companies’ commitment to work collaboratively.’
According to Chen Hong, president of SAIC Motor, ‘Our agreement will enable SAIC and GM to take advantage of economies of scale and get new technology to the market faster than by going it alone. It will help bring about our goal of leading the automotive industry in new energy vehicles and our vision of sustainable transportation, which we introduced at World Expo 2010 Shanghai.’
Today’s agreement is a follow-up to the non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) on strategic co-operation signed by SAIC and GM in November 2010. The two automakers had pledged to reinforce their collaboration in certain core areas of their business, including the development of new energy vehicles and the creation of a stronger and more integrated role for PATAC to work on future vehicles and powertrains. GM and SAIC are making an equal investment in the project.
SAIC and GM are partners in 10 joint ventures in China, which are engaged in vehicle and powertrain manufacturing, sales and aftersales, automotive engineering and design, automotive finance and telematics, and the sale of used vehicles. The companies’ manufacturing joint ventures, Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling, are market leaders in China. In addition, SAIC and GM operate a joint venture in India and SAIC is an investor in GM Korea Co.