GM-SAIC cooperation has already produced this new Chevrolet Sail sedan for sale in China and, soon, India

GM-SAIC cooperation has already produced this new Chevrolet Sail sedan for sale in China and, soon, India

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General Motors and SAIC Motor on Wednesday said they would expand their partnership to develop a new small-displacement petrol engine family and an "advanced" dual dry clutch automated transmission.

The agreement, signed today in Shanghai by GM global product operations chief Tom Stephens and SAIC president Chen Hong, was described by the two parties as "a significant milestone that expands GM and SAIC’s relationship into powertrain development".

“The codevelopment of these new engines and transmissions builds on a strong history of innovation and collaboration between GM and SAIC Motor,” Stephens said.

The new engine will be made with displacements of one to 1.5 litres, "hits right at the heart of the global vehicle market", according to the automakers. "Its compact, lightweight design combines direct injection and turbocharging, providing customers unparalleled fuel efficiency and performance." The engine will be used by GM and SAIC Motor in China and for future vehicles worldwide, and is said to "provide further fuel efficiency advances beyond traditional technologies".  


Engineering and development of the new engine will be carried out jointly by GM and SAIC engineers in Detroit and at the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC),the automakers’ engineering and design joint venture in Shanghai. 

The new front wheel drive transmission will incorporate the latest innovations forimproving fuel economy and performance. The transmission alone will provide upward of a 10% improvement in fuel economy over today’s conventional six-speed automatic transmissions. The co-developed transmission will feature dry, dual-clutch technology andwill provide shift comfort equal to a conventional, fully automatic transmission, with superior quality, while reducing CO2 emissions, the automaker said.

When combined, these technologies can provide up to 20% improvement in CO2 emissions,compared to engines and automatic transmissions in production today in China.

"These development agreements open an exciting new chapter in the partnership between SAIC and GM," said SAIC chairman Hu Maoyuan. "Not only will they add critical green technologies to our next-generation vehicles, they will also build on the strong engineering capabilities forged as a part of GM and SAIC's corporate responsibility." 

He told news agency AFP the deal was a milestone that would see the two companies share key intellectual property and help SAIC move up the industry's value chain.


"This is the first time a Chinese automaker has collaborated with a leading international group to develop a core technology while sharing intellectual property on a global scale," Hu said at the signing ceremony.

"This boosts SAIC's efforts to master the core technology and marks movement to the higher end of the value chain," he added.

"This really underscores the importance our companies have placed on accelerating the introduction of cleaner, more energy efficient power trains right here in China," Stephens said.

Neither GM nor SAIC said how much additional investment the new agreement would require, but noted their collaboration would increase efficiency and reduce costs.

The new technology would likely reach the market by 2012 at the earliest, GM spokesman Michael Albano told AFP.

Under the agreement, SAIC will be able to use the technology in its own car brands such as Roewe, Albano said.

George Yin, a Beijing-based auto analyst at Bocom International, told AFP the move would help SAIC take advantage of Beijing's efforts to boost the green car sector and reduce production costs, particularly for its self-owned brands.

"The main imports by domestic auto companies are transmissions and engines as home developed technologies still lag far behind foreign technologies. The tie up with GM on power trains will boost SAIC's technologies," Yin said.

"So far SAIC's star products are mainly made by the joint ventures... The cooperation will pave the way for making them domestically and help it improve technologies and reduce costs."

GM is the market leader in China, which overtook the United States for the first time last year to become the world's biggest auto market.

The US automaker and its joint venture partners expect to sell over 2m cars in the country this year after selling a record 1.83 million in 2009.

In a sign of China's importance to GM, the company has based its international operations in Shanghai.

General Motors India plans to sell light trucks developed by SAIC and, earlier this week, said it would also add a new sedan, codeveloped by GM China and SAIC, to its local model line.