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Published: Wednesday, 9/21/2011

GM to boost role in Chinese venture

Firms working on electric autos


SHANGHAI -- General Motors Co. agreed yesterday to deepen cooperation with its flagship Chinese partner on development of electric-vehicle know-how amid pressure from Beijing to hand over proprietary technology.

GM would not say how much it's investing in the venture with Chinese state-owned partner Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp. and gave few details.

The Detroit firm denied that the pact was because China pushed to acquire advanced technology, such as the Chevrolet Volt electric car, that its automakers have yet to develop. The Volt can travel about 35 miles on battery power, and a gas-powered generator kicks in to run the car when the batteries are depleted. The technology eliminates worry over whether a driver will run out of electricity.

GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky told reporters from Shanghai that neither Shanghai Automotive nor the Chinese government has requested Volt technology. Under the deal with Shanghai Automotive, the two firms will share equally the cost of developing an all-electric vehicle, reducing GM's cost and risk, Mr. Girsky said.

GM plans to sell only a small number of Volts in China, he said, to test consumer reception. But he hinted that the Volt, now built in Detroit, could be built in China.

Shanghai is the site of GM's international headquarters.

An explosion in Chinese demand and sluggish sales in the recession-stricken West helped China overtake the United States as the largest car market in 2009. Last year, sales of passenger vehicles, excluding large buses, jumped by a third to 13.7 million vehicles.

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