* GM making electric New Sail in China
* Prototype available by year end
* Foreign automakers eyeing China green car potential
(Adds details, background)
By Fang Yan and Ken Wills
BEIJING, Nov 4 General Motors [GM.UL] has started
making an electric version of its popular Chevrolet New Sail in
China and will roll out prototypes before year-end, making it the
first foreign automaker to build electric cars in the world's
biggest auto market.
GM, the top foreign automaker in China, is well-positioned to
get a head-start over its rivals in the country's fledgling green
vehicle business, which analysts say could be the next hotly
"Shanghai GM has started making the electric New Sail and a
prototype will be available at the year-end," a source with
knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
It will initially roll out a small number of electric New
Sail cars to test the market, said the source.
A GM China spokeswoman confirmed the plan, saying it's part
of Shanghai GM's green vehicle campaign.
Shanghai GM is the Detroit automaker's car venture with top
Chinese auto group SAIC Motor Corp (600104.SS), which makes
Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac models.
In June, Beijing unveiled a pilot scheme to hand out
subsidies to buyers of fuel-efficient cars in five Chinese cities
as it moves to cut emissions in the world's most populous
country, which is also the world's largest producer of greenhouse
But the handouts, which favour electric vehicles and plug-in
hybrids, only cover locally made green models, reflecting
Beijing's resolve to promote domestic brands, such as Warren
Buffett-backed BYD (1211.HK). [ID:nSGE651009]
Buyers for BYD's F3DM plug-in hybrid, for instance, could
enjoy a roughly 30 percent discount to its price tag of 169,800
That puts GM's Chevy Volt, which it will roll out in China in
late 2011, and Nissan Motor's (7201.T) Leaf at a significant
disadvantage and makes the models too expensive for many Chinese
But the locally made electric New Sail would be eligible for
the subsidies, which could run as high as 60,000 yuan per car,
giving the Detroit automaker an edge over its rivals, industry
GM's Shanghai venture also plans to launch the hybrid version
of its popular Buick New Regal in 2011 as part of its ongoing
green auto initiative.
Other foreign automakers are also getting ready to join the
green car race.
Nissan, which runs an auto venture with Dongfeng Motor Group
(0489.HK), had earlier signed a deal with the municipal
government of Wuhan to jointly promote its Leaf in the central
Toyota Motor (7203.T) also added a Camry Hybrid to its
China-made green auto line-up, which also includes the Prius.
Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE), Ford Motor (F.N), among others are
also working harder than ever to improve the efficiency of their