GM announces China version of hybrid Volt

At the Shanghai Auto Show carmakers, both domestic and foreign, are hustling to grab a share of the world's largest market for new vehicles.

Heizmann said VW, which vies with GM for the title of China's top-selling automaker, expects annual sales of at least 400,000 "new energy vehicles" - the government's term for electric or gasoline-electric hybrids - by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025.

The pressure for electrification in China is an added headache for automakers at a time when sales growth is slowing and competition heating up in a market they are counting on to drive global revenue.

It also announced an all-new fully electric small SUV with an estimated range of more than 450km that it will bring to market within five years and will be sold in North America and Europe, as well as China.

Ford Motor Co.'s luxury brand, Lincoln, has unveiled its first gasoline-electric hybrid, a version of its MKZ midsize sedan, at the Shanghai auto show.

"With our company struggling in China right now, it is crucial for us to increase our promotional effort there [through Shanghai Motor Show]", said a manager from Hyundai Motor.

Models on display at Auto Shanghai 2017, the global industry's biggest marketing event of the year, reflect the conflict between Beijing's ambitions to promote environmentally friendly propulsion and Chinese consumers' love of hulking, fuel-hungry SUVs.

Even Great Wall Motors Ltd., which became China's most profitable auto brand by making nearly nothing but SUVs, has unveiled an electric compact sedan, the C30 EV, which looks nearly comically small next to its hulking other vehicles.

For most manufacturers, they were flanked by as many as a dozen hulking SUVs that can carry up to seven passengers.

American automaker General Motors has rolled out its Buick Velite 5 plug-in-hybrids in China. Prices start at 265,800 yuan ($38,600).

"Buick is committed to expanding its portfolio of new energy vehicles", said a GM statement.

On Tuesday, Volkwagen AG announced plans to launch a pure-electric vehicle in China next year with a state-owned partner. It is also developing a fully electric vehicle on its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA).

Hence the proposal, released in September, calling for electric or gasoline-electric hybrids to make up 8 percent of every automaker's output next year. Automakers have warned they may be unable to meet those targets and regulators have suggested they might be reduced or postponed. They include the two-door EP9, a contender for the title of fastest electric vehicle, with what the manufacturer says is a top speed of 194 miles per hour. As evidenced by the slew of electrified cars debuting at the Shanghai show, the country is looking toward electrification as a solution to air quality and congestion issues. Customers are steering the other path: First-quarter SUV sales skyrocketed 21 percent from a year previously to 2.4 million, while electric vehicle purchases sank 4.4 percent to simply 55,929.

As manufacturing volume of batteries - an electric car's most expensive component - expands, the cost should fall, making them competitive with combustion engines, Schoch said.

"That will create a market pull rather than the government forcing action", he said.

Jochem Heizmann, China CEO for Volkswagen, the country's top auto brand, told reporters Tuesday VW was close to cementing a partnership with Chinese car-sharing operator Shouqi serving multiple cities - partly to boost sales of VW electric vehicles. However, the company has shifted away from that plan.

To cooperate in product development, Ford has transferred battery technology and software to its joint venture with Chang'an, Worthington said.

"It's developing even quicker than we estimated", he said of SUV sales.

  • Wendy Palmer