Let's face it: China has the momentum when it comes to electric cars. On the surface, the U.S. is the leader, with both the technological lead in vehicles and the most charging stations. But appearances are somewhat deceiving, because China has more of a national commitment, backed up with strong consumer subsidies that can reach $19,000 per vehicle. That's a lot of yuan for Chinese car buyers!
So U.S. EV startups are approaching China warily, because it's a potential competitor, but they are approaching, hoping to get a leg up in what could be a huge market. And for some carmakers such as Coda and Wheego, Chinese companies are suppliers, producing the battery packs and auto platforms for their cars.
Last week, Coda Automotive said it has formed a partnership with China's Great Wall Motors to co-develop EVs for both the Chinese and international markets. The resulting battery car, branded as a Coda or Great Wall car in different markets, would be sold in Europe, China and possibly the U.S.
You've probably never heard of Great Wall, but it produced nearly 500,000 cars and trucks in 2011. And if there isn't a Haval SUV, Voleex sedan or Wingle pickup in your driveway, that doesn't mean there won't be one tomorrow. What Great Wall doesn't have is state-of-the-art battery technology, though it is showing a prototype electric car at the current Beijing auto show. China has dozens of automakers, and also the world's largest car market now.
Phil Murtaugh, Coda's CEO, said in an online conference call that the partnership hopes to produce EVs for the Chinese market that will be comparably priced to gas cars, once those whopping Chinese incentives are factored in. He called the alliance a "strategic partnership," because Great Wall isn't taking an equity stake in Coda.
In the U.S., Coda is still launching its electric sedan. Murtaugh declined to specify how many cars have been sold, but he acknowledged it's a "small number." He described the company's March 19 entry into the market as a "soft launch." Coda, he said, "is not focused on selling in high volumes now. Until we're very comfortable that our dealer network and manufacturing system is fully set up we won't announce or focus on volumes."
Chinese companies such as BYD haven't sold many EVs either. China still has only a fledgling charging network, and not a huge amount of public awareness of this new way of getting around. But, as you might have heard, the Chinese are ruled by a federal government with enormous centralized power, and if they want electric cars on the streets, they'll be there.
Post Your Comment Below