* Two-seater EN-V would address congestion in mega-cities
* Choice of Shanghai for event highlights importance of
(Adds executive quotes, analyst comment, details)
By Fang Yan and Jason Subler
SHANGHAI, March 24 General Motors [GM.UL]
unveiled a new electric concept car in China on Wednesday ,
aiming to burnish its image as a supplier of non-polluting cars
tailored to the crowded mega-cities of the future.
GM showcased the EN-V, or "Electric Networked-Vehicle", at
a pavilion that it will share with its China joint venture
partner, SAIC Motor Corp (600104.SS), during the World Expo to
be held in Shanghai from May through October.
The two-seater EN-V, which would communicate with other
cars to help avoid accidents and ease traffic in congested
major cities like Shanghai, is only at the conceptual stage --
it would not hit showrooms for another 10 to 20 years, and
would require regulatory changes for it to be allowed on roads.
But the Detroit automaker is looking to the helmet-shaped
EN-V to help establish itself as a significant player in
cutting-edge, fuel-efficient vehicles while it seeks to
reinvent itself after emerging from bankruptcy last July.
"In the EN-V we are really showing a new concept, for not
just electrified vehicles but a reinvented vehicle experience
for mega cities," Alan Taub, GM's vice president for global
research and development, told reporters in Shanghai.
The three versions of the EN-V, powered by electric motors,
can go about 40 km (25 miles) on a single charge.
Other major automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp
(7203.T) and Nissan Motor (7201.T), have similar zero-emission
mobility concepts as they look to meet higher fuel economy
standards and increased consumer demand for greener models.
The focus on a compact, low-emission vehicle contrasts with
GM's struggle to find a buyer for its iconic but tarnished
Hummer brand, which had become synonymous with gas-guzzling
GM had agreed to sell Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy
Industrial Machinery Co, a little-known company based in
southwestern China's Sichuan province, but the deal failed to
win Chinese government approval. [ID:nN24166804]
The EN-V is, however, not GM's first effort to reposition
itself with more environmentally friendly models.
Its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, slated to reach
showrooms in late 2010, is key to GM's effort in the field.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHINA
GM's choice of China to unveil the new concept model
underscores the importance of China, the world's biggest auto
market, where car sales hit record highs in 2009 despite the
global industry suffering a steep downturn.
China is GM's second-largest market after the United States
and a strategic battleground for all foreign automakers, with
the likes of Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE) and Toyota fighting
fiercely for bigger market share.
"China is crucial to GM for now and for the future. Without
the China market, GM might not come out of bankruptcy so
quickly," said Zhang Xin, an analyst with Guotai Junan
Securities in Beijing.
In 2009, GM sold 1.83 million vehicles in the country, up
67 percent, and broke sales records every single month of the
It will sell more than 2 million vehicles this year, Kevin
Wale, president and managing director for its China operations,
told Reuters in January.
(Editing by Edmund Klamann and Lincoln Feast)