2010 Chevrolet New Sail hatchback, sold in ChinaEnlarge Photo
General Motors has been through the wringer over the last 18 months, nowhere more so than in North America, where it declared bankruptcy and was quickly restructured with $60 billion of Federal funds.
But its overseas operations haven't had an easy time of it either, including its on-again, off-again, on-again plans to build an all-electric subcompact or mini-car in and for developing markets.
The story begins last year, when GM India announced plans to adapt its Chevrolet Spark minicar to electric drive with the help of Indian maker Reva, which announced its own new product line at last fall's Frankfurt Motor Show.
According to GM India president Karl Slym, Chevrolet expected to sell thousands of e-Sparks a year, with a choice of inexpensive lead-acid batteries or a more expensive lithium-ion battery pack for greater range.
2010 Chevrolet New Sail, sold in ChinaEnlarge Photo
But Reva's private-equity investors wanted out. And in May they sold a controlling stake in Reva to Mahindra & Mahindra, the Indian automaker that separately is planning to bring its diesel pickup trucks to the U.S. market later this year.
Now, GM China's president, Kevin Wale, told the Beijing Morning Post that Shanghai-GM is working on an electric concept car that would be an adaptation of the company's subcompact Chevrolet Sail model.
The Sail is a locally developed model jointly designed by Shanghai-GM , which is a joint venture between GM China and the local Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC). The subcompact Sail is normally fitted with a 1.2-liter or 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, in either hatchback or sedan styles.
Shanghai-GM is currently thriving in China, offering a full range of Chevrolet models (most not sold in the U.S.) as well as a range of Buicks, which have historically been extremely popular in that market.
The e-Sail concept may not be likely to see production "in the near future," but GM China is undoubtedly following the electric-car market closely.
China's government has targeted electric cars as a major focus over the next decade, and given its experience in the field, GM will want to be there.
Score: India 0, China 1.