Volvo Cars, the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker, announced plans today to manufacture electric cars in China for sale worldwide starting in 2019 amid pressure by Beijing for global auto brands to help develop its fledgling industry in alternatives to gasoline.
The announcement at the Shanghai auto show adds to a flurry of plans by major automakers to roll out electric models in China, their industry's biggest market.
The ruling Communist Party has the world's most aggressive electric vehicle goals, both to clean up smog- shrouded cities and seeking the lead in an emerging industry.
Yesterday, General Motors Co said it will produce a gasoline-electric hybrid version of its Chevrolet Volt in China. Ford, Volkswagen AG, Nissan Motor Co. And other brands also have plans to sell electric models in China, adding to competition in a market dominated so far by lower-cost Chinese producers.
Volvo said its first pure-electric model will be based on the economy-size CMA platform it shares with Chinese automaker Geely, which bought the Swedish brand from Ford in 2010. It said the name, size and other details were yet to be decided.
"It will be for global export. So it is built from the start to work all over the world," said Henrik Green, Volvo's senior vice president for research and development.
Volvo has three factories in China and in 2015 became the first automaker to export Chinese-made cars to the United States.
Chinese buyers have shown little enthusiasm for electric cars due to concern about cost, reliability and limited range. But Chinese authorities are using a mix of incentives and penalties to push automakers to produce electric models. That has set off a scramble to develop models with consumer appeal.
"It's clear that China wants to take a leading role globally in terms of the regulatory environment and electrification," said David Schoch, Ford's president for the Asia-Pacific.
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.
Almost every global and Chinese auto brand is displaying at least one electric concept vehicle, if not a market-ready model. They range from family-friendly SUVs to futuristic- looking, premium-priced electric muscle cars from Chinese startups such as NextEV and Qiantu.
For most manufacturers, they were flanked by as many as a dozen hulking SUVs that can carry up to seven passengers. South Korea's Kia Motors Co. Debuted an SUV-inspired crossover, the K2 Cross, designed for the Chinese market. GM said the Velite 5 hybrid will be sold by its Buick unit, which has modest sales elsewhere but is GM's main brand in China.
The vehicle is to be produced by GM's joint venture with a state-owned automaker, Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp. and priced starting at 265,800 yuan (USD 38,600).
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