Plug-in hybrid cars are coming to China. That country strongly encourages the manufacture and sale of low or zero emission cars, which it calls “new energy vehicles.” In addition to financial incentives, people who buy one are entitled to register it immediately. Owners of conventional cars with internal combustion engines have to enter a lottery. It can take up to 5 years to get permission to register a traditional car in China’s most congested cities.
Prior to the Beijing auto show that kicks off today, Toyota announced it will offer Chinese customers plug-in hybrid versions of its Corolla and Levin models by 2018. Hiroji Onishi, head of operations for Toyota in China, told the press, “Our decision to launch plug-in hybrid versions of the Corolla and the Levin reflects the depth of our resolve and commitment to the Chinese market.”
According to Business Insider, a plug-in hybrid must be capable of driving at least 30 miles on electric power alone to be eligible for China’s full range of new energy vehicle incentives. Onishi declined to say whether those cars will be manufactured in China. Locally produced cars are far more competitive than imported cars, which often have hefty import duties added to their sales price.
One third of General Motor’s global business is now in China. It says it plans to offer 10 plug-in hybrid models in the Chinese market by 2020. According to Hybrid Cars, its SAIC-GM partnerhsip is responsible for Buick, Chevy, and Cadillac, sales in China, while SAIC-GM-Wuling, produces Wuling and Baojun brand vehicles.
“During the next five years, GM and its joint ventures will roll out more than 10 new energy vehicles under the Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and Baojun brands,” GM said in a statement before the Beijing show. “They will include the Shanghai-built Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which will go on sale later this year.” The CT6 PHEV will be sold in the US eventually but will be manufactured exclusively in China.
Eric Noble, president of California-based consulting firm Carlab, told Bloomberg News earlier this year, “Longer term, we should see more of this because GM’s Chinese operations have every capability required to provide cars for North America,” said Noble. “They would import here instead of from Europe because Chinese consumer tastes align more closely to American tastes than Europe’s ever did.”
If plug-in hybrid sales increase significantly in the US, it may be because the Chinese market places such a high premium on the technology. Once a company develops a plug-in car for one market, it makes it a more attractive proposition to offer it in other world markets as well.