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Volvo Cars to export China-made electric autos, company says


This article was published April 20, 2017 at 2:17 a.m.


Visitors look at Buickā€™s Velite 5, a rebranded Chevrolet Volt, displayed Wednesday at the Auto Shanghai 2017 show at the National Exhibition and Convention Center.

SHANGHAI -- Volvo Cars, the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker, said Wednesday it plans to make electric cars in China for sale worldwide starting in 2019 as the government pressures global auto brands to develop alternatives to gasoline engines.

The announcement at the Shanghai auto show is among a flurry of automakers' plans for 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.

On Tuesday, 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 intend to sell electric models in China, adding to competition in a market that has been dominated 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. In 2015 it became the first automaker to export Chinese-made cars to the United States.

Chinese buyers have shown little enthusiasm for electric cars on concerns about cost, reliability and limited range. But Chinese authorities are using a mix of incentives and penalties to push for electric models. Automakers are scrambling 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 China's ambitions for environmentally friendly cars and Chinese consumers' love of hulking, fuel-hungry SUVs.

Nearly every automaker is displaying at least one electric concept vehicle, if not a market-ready model. They range from SUVs to futuristic-looking, premium-priced electric muscle cars from Chinese startups such as NextEV and Qiantu.

South Korea's Kia Motors Co. debuted an SUV-inspired crossover, the K2 Cross, designed for the Chinese market.

GM said its Velite 5 hybrid will be sold by Buick, which has modest sales elsewhere but is GM's main brand in China. GM's joint venture with a state-owned automaker, Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp., will make it. Prices will start at $38,600.

The Velite 5 will be able to travel 72 miles on one charge, with an added gasoline engine extending that to 480 miles, GM said. It said the Velite 5 will be the Chinese market's most energy-efficient hybrid to date.

"Buick is committed to expanding its portfolio of new energy vehicles," said a GM statement. "It will introduce additional new energy vehicles in China in the next two years, including hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and pure electric vehicles."

On Tuesday, Volkswagen AG announced plans to sell a pure-electric car in China next year with a state-owned partner. It is to be the first in a full range of pure-electric vehicles for China.

Regulators jolted the industry by proposing a requirement that electrics account for at least 8 percent of each brand's production by next year, rising to 10 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2020. Automakers say they may be unable to meet those targets and regulators have suggested they might be reduced or postponed.

The government is expanding China's network of charging stations to reduce "range anxiety," or buyers' fear of running out of power. The Cabinet's planning agency announced a goal in February of having 100,000 public charging stations and 800,000 private stations operating by the end of this year.

Business on 04/20/2017

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