In February 1998, the Asian Wall Street Journal, sceptical at General Motor’s (GM) investment in China, ran a front-page story with the headline, “GM bets big on a market littered with casualties. ”1 Seven years later, in January 2005, GM featured once again in the same paper, only this time, the headline was more positive “GM vehicle sales in China rose 27% in 2004”.
2 While Shanghai Volkswagen (SVW) maintained its leadership position with about 25% of China’s automobile market in 2004, Shanghai General Motors (SGM), GM’s flagship joint venture (JV) with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), was closing the gap with sales increased by 26% year-on-year to 252,896 units. SGM said that its market share in China rose to around 10% in 2004, compared with 8. 5% in 2001. 3 However, in 2004, SGM’s growth rate slowed down drastically, compared with the 46% rise in 2003.
This was largely on account of the tougher consumer credit requirements, higher interest rates and a market characterized by price wars. Jack Smith, GM’s Chairman and CEO, made a promise in 1994 that the company would bring its best technologies to China, and help the country to build one of the strongest and most advanced automobile industries in the world. Given GM’s vast investment and willingness to engage in technological transfer in China, some analysts commented that GM was too hungry, and gave up too much to win the deal with SAIC.
Regardless of the criticism, GM was determined that its venture in China was long-term, and was willing to invest in the development of China’s automobile market. Eight years into its partnership with SAIC, GM was still very optimistic. In mid-2004, it announced plans to double production capacity by 2007, and to relocate its Asia-Pacific headquarters from Singapore to Shanghai. 4 What factors contributed to SGM’s strong growth? What synergies existed in the GM-SAIC joint venture? Given the intense competition in China’s automobile industry, how best could SGM sustain its growth momentum in the future?
1 Smith C. S. & Blumenstein R. “GM Bets Big on a Market Littered with Casualties”, Asian Wall Street Journal, February 12th 1998. 2 “GM’s Vehicles Sales in China Rose 27% in 2004”, The Asian Wall Street Journal, January 7th 2004. 3 Ibid. 4 McGregor R. “General Motors Plans US$3 billion Expansion in China”, Financial Times, June 6th 2004. Emily Ho prepared this Case under the supervision of Dr. Zhigang Tao for class discussion. This Case is not intended to show effective or ineffective handling of decision or business processes. © 2005 by The Asia Case Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (including the Internet) - without the permission of The University of Hong Kong. Ref. 05/239C 1 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer The Automobile Industry in China Designated as a Pillar Industry It was nearly impossible for an ordinary Chinese citizen to own a car during the Communist era, when only party officials had the privilege to proudly ride in Red Flag limousines.
These cars were produced by the state-owned First Automobile Works (FAW), which was set up in the 1950s with help from the Soviet Union. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1966-1976, imports of foreign auto equipment, required for technological advancement, were restricted because of rampant xenophobia. As a result, China’s ability to develop automobile technology and absorb imported know-how was limited for years. In the 1990s, as household incomes grew, Chinese officials shifted focus to making passenger cars, but were crippled by the poor management, old technology, incompetent workers and regional rivalries.
In addition, each region wanted to develop the local automobile industry, which led to an upsurge of auto and auto parts companies, many of which were former army weapons manufacturing operations. To control the situation, national economic planners laid out a game plan that altered the industry landscape through mergers to result in three to four largescale motor vehicle conglomerates within 15 years. The automobile industry was then designated to be a pillar in China’s economic development.
Aspirations soared far beyond the domestic horizon, with the Chinese government wanting domestic manufacturers to join the ranks of Toyota, GM and Nissan, in battling for global sales. To succeed in implementing such an ambitious development plan, China had imposed a “market-for-technology” strategy that would accelerate the country’s absorption of foreign investment. China invited foreign automobile companies, on a case-by-case basis, to set up joint ventures. Foreign companies were, however, not allowed to have wholly-owned operations in China since the government intended to help local companies through this initiative.
The severe inflation in 1988 and political unrest in 1989 had slowed down the pace of market reform. In 1992, subsequent to Deng Xiaoping’s “southern tour”, 5 reforms and economic growth in both, theory and policy, gained momentum. The economy began to pick up again, and the Chinese government had to deal with an overheated automobile industry. Provincial governments were guilty of indiscriminately launching repetitive automobile projects, and the local industry lacked economies of scale, owing to the large number of state-owned, debtridden production plants.
In 1997, China’s 27 provinces and autonomous regions boasted of an estimated 123 vehicle assembly plants, with 22 of the country’s provincial-level administrative areas declaring automobile manufacture as a pillar industry. However, only four factories at that time had achieved annual capacity of more than 100,000 vehicles. 6 After much deliberation, the Chinese government enacted a number of measures aimed at slowing the growth of auto purchase financing, and restricting the number of new entrants into the sector.
For example, restrictions in car loans in early 2004 immediately cooled down sales growth. In 2004, the government also announced that the manufacturing licences of bankrupt or failing automakers could only be bought by purchasers who were willing to invest a minimum of US$240 million in the business and a further US$60 million in research and development, aimed at developing the local car and component technology. This new measure barred low-margin manufacturing companies from purchasing licenses, and entering the sector.
Despite the fact that the economic dimension of the automobile sector was becoming more significant in China, it was still relatively small compared with the world average. 5 In January 1992, Deng Xiaoping, the former leader of China, traveled to Shenzhen of southern China on campaign tour to energise the reform-oriented “open door” economic policy. Miller M. “GM Had Its Work Cut Out in China”, Asia Times, April 4th 1997. 6 2 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer Accounting for 20% of the world’s population, Chinese citizens only owned roughly 1.
5% of the total number of cars in the world. In comparison, U. S. citizens owned 25% of the world’s cars with only 5% of the population. In fact, China had the same number of cars per person as the United States did in the 1910s. China’s low car ownership was largely on account of sluggish domestic demand that stemmed from economic woes and the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. Auto sales rose only 3. 7% year-on-year during January-September 1998 compared with a 27% gain during the same period in 1997. 7 The growth of the auto industry accelerated from 2001 [see Exhibit 1].
By 2004, sales of vehicles were 5. 1 million units, including 2. 3 million passenger cars, which increased by 15% year-on-year. 8 The government’s clampdown on car loans and delayed purchases by consumers anticipating lower prices, had caused a sudden slowdown of passenger car sales, with growth rate plummeting to 15% from a high of 75% in 2003. 9 Against a backdrop of overall sluggish growth rate of car sales, SGM outperformed the market and the market leader, SVW. SGM posted a 26% rise in car sales in 2004, while sales at SVW dropped 8% and its market share dropped to 16% from 20% in 2003 [see Exhibit 2].
Only Honda, Hyundai and Ford, whose sales were growing from a lower base, had managed to fend off the worst of the slowdown and maintain high double-digit growth rates in 2004. The slowdown was also accompanied by a rapid change in the kind of cars Chinese consumers bought, with the expensive mid-range car segment priced at around US$24,000 suffering the most [see Exhibit 3]. In response to the sudden slowdown, automobile manufacturers were forced to curtail their pace of production, and thereby fell short of their annual targets [see Exhibit 4].
Passenger car output rose 12% to 2. 3 million units in 2004, a lackluster show after a surge of 83% in 2003. Foreign Participation The first few foreign companies that crept into China in the 1980s were mostly through joint ventures. Despite dampened vehicle sales, many auto companies, including foreign joint ventures, had increased capacity to a level that was more than twice the current demand at that time [see Exhibit 5]. The excess capacity had prompted half-a-dozen foreign carmakers to close down or retreat from the China market.
During 1997-1998, Peugeot-Citroen SA abandoned a factory, and Daimler-Benz got out of a deal to produce Mercedes minivans before it had even begun. 10 The Chinese government issued the first industrial policy for the automobile industry in 1994. The policy sought to consolidate the dozens of automobile companies into the “Big Three” model in the United States, and to protect all manufacturers located in China (including foreign joint ventures) from international competition by establishing import quotas and stiff tariffs.
Foreign ownership in joint ventures was limited to 50% to give the Chinese partners more control and bargaining power. Further, all joint ventures had to localise their parts and components by at least 40%. The policy also encouraged knowledge transfer to the local firms, as the foreign companies had to establish joint technical centres for training Chinese workers. The policy was intended to give Chinese vehicle producers enough time to prepare for tougher competition, considering that car production was growing too fast.
The restrictions on new car ventures also provided existing joint ventures with a golden opportunity to consolidate their leads. Adherence to the policy was, however, a daunting task to for those automakers that were biding their time to enter the market. 7 “GM Rolls Out First Buick in China’s ‘Proud Moment’ for Shanghai Joint Venture Partners”, Reuters, December 1998. Zhang Y. (?? ), “Auto Sales Exceed 5,000,000 for the First Time in 2004”(“2004 ?????????? 500 ?? "), Market Post (??? ), January 21st 2005. 9
“China’s Car Sales Growth Slows Suddenly”, Financial Times, January 12th 2005. 10 Smith, G and Blumenstein S. “GM Makes an Uneasy Tradeoff in China: It Wants Access to an Immense Market. But Beijing Wants Access to its Technology”, The Wall Street Journal, February 11th 1998, B15. 8 3 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer In fact, the 1994 policy did little to stem the influx of foreign automobile companies into China. After the policy was issued, almost every big multinational automobile company had bid to establish a joint venture with SAIC.
According to government statistics, total agreed investment into the automobile and auxiliary industries from all sources was approximately US$60 billion during the 1990s. 11 Many foreign automakers were lured by China’s huge market potential and lucrative profit margins. According to Standard & Poor’s estimates, the average net profit margin for the entire automobile sector, including trucks and buses, was about 30% in 2004. SGM estimated its own margin was around 10%, which was twice its global average of around 5%.
12 It earned a handsome US$2,267 per vehicle in China in 2004,13 compared with GM’s earning of just US$145 per vehicle in the US. 14 The overcapacity situation continued to exist through 2004. It was estimated that assembly lines invested by foreign automobile manufacturers would be able to produce 8 million units by 2010, even though the estimated market demand then would be half of that. In response, automobile manufacturers began to cut prices on some models by 30% in 2004, resulting in razor thin profit margins.
15 In June 2004, The National Development and Reform Commission issued a new auto policy, replacing the one issued in 1994. The new policy would both loosen (for eg, the number of JVs allowed for a foreign company) and tighten (research & development requirement) restrictions on foreign investors in the auto industry from different areas [see Exhibit 6 and Exhibit 7]. Shanghai General Motors “We [GM] know what the profit number is, and we know when it is going to happen. We are focused on shareholder return. This is by no means a benevolent operation.
This is an operation that will be competitive. But since we are starting from ground zero, we have a long-term strategic plan. ” - Rudolph A. Schlais Jr. , the former President of GM China16 In 1997, GM signed a contract, worth US$1. 6 billion, with SAIC to manufacture cars in China. Al Gore, the then U. S. Vice-President, and Li Peng, the then Chinese Premier, witnessed the contract signing ceremony. The agreement included a deal whereby GM would supply components and assemblies for about 13,000 vehicles, including Cadillacs, Buick Regal sedans and Buick GL8 wagons.
At that time, SAIC was one of the big three automobile manufacturers in China, with 65,000 employees, 33 joint ventures and an annual production of 600,000 cars. In comparison, GM had 3,500 employees in China and three joint ventures. 17 GM had great expectations from the new joint venture, and company officials envisaged that 20 years down the road the company would sell more cars in China than in the US. They also saw a US export potential of US$1. 6 billion in the first five years. 18 SGM began producing Buicks in late 1998 with a production capacity of 100,000 units a year.
The Buick model was chosen as SGM’s first car because of its popularity in China before the Communist Party came to power in 1949. 19 Customers of Buicks were classified into four 11 China Automotive Technology & Research Center, [www. document] http://www. catarc. ac. cn (accessed January 28h 2005). “Business Asia”, The Economist Intelligence Report, June 14 th2004. 13 US$1 = Rmb 8. 28 on February 15th 2005. 14 “Business Asia”, The Economist Intelligence Unit, June 14th 2004. 15 Forney, M. “Here Comes the Really Cheap Cars”, Time, January 17th 2005. 16 Sugawara S.
“As China’s Auto Market Accelerates, GM Jumps On”, Washington Post Foreign Service, January 2nd 1997, A01. 17 “GM Reads Tea Leaves in Tailoring China Family Car”, China Securities Bulletin, June 25th 2001. 18 Chan, E. “GM’s China Angst”, Bloomberg News, December 18th 1998, C3. 19 Smith, C. “Buick’s China Plant Opens with Simper GM Searches for Smaller, Cheaper Car to Make”, Wall Street Journal, December 16th 1998. 12 4 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer segments: joint ventures and fleet companies (40%), private businesses (30%), government bureau and state-owned enterprises (20%) and individuals (10%).
20 Upon entry, SGM found the market environment unpleasant. China was experiencing sluggish economic growth since 1995. Further, in view of the dipping demand and excess capacity, the Chinese government was keeping the brakes on the market - it had stopped a pilot auto-loan program in northeastern China, and many cities had quit issuing license plates for private cars. Car sales were further impeded by consumers’ expectation of lower prices after China’s WTO accession. Government employees, regardless of their rank, were banned from purchasing cars by the Chinese government in January 1999.
Government cars were consolidated into fleets, and employees were given monthly stipends to pay for their use. Shrinking revenue from government segment, and the low production of its light-truck assembly joint venture plant in Shenyang had forced SGM to increase its investment in order to survive. Also, sceptics doubted whether SGM would be able to sell the 30,000 Buicks it planned to produce in 1999, or meet the production target of 100,000 cars per year. The Buick model, though mid-sized by US standards, was criticised for being too big for China’s crowded streets.
Even the ubiquitous Mercedes sedans were mostly smaller models, and First Auto Works’ 1. 8-litre Audis never sold more than 20,000 a year in China. The Buick was sold at around US$38,000 to US$43,000, 21 well above what the wealthiest Chinese individuals could afford, and almost twice as much as the country’s best-selling sedan, Volkswagen AG’s Santana. Indeed, SGM encountered tough sales in the early days. Although the early demand for Buicks in 1999 exceeded expectations, sales dropped 48% in 2000, despite the fact that SGM had lowered the price of Buick to US$25,000.
22 Car sales of SGM were also threatened by the influx of imported cars as China gradually lowered import tariffs. This meant that most big automobile manufacturers would be able to ship cars into China as cheaply as GM could make them locally. In spite of disappointing initial sales of the Buick sedans, SGM rolled out the new Buick G sedan model, with a lower price tag, in 2002, followed by the Buick Excelle HRV hatchback and Buick Royaum premium sedan in 2004. The growth rate of SGM’s passenger car sales outperformed that of the
industry during 20022004, while SVW under-performed when compared with the market growth [see Exhibit 2]. This indicated that SGM was growing at the expense of its competitors, and had become a force to reckon with in China’s growing auto markets. General Motors Group GM’s presence in China dated back to 1922, when its Manila branch was moved to Shanghai. In September 1924, a GM Buick four-door sedan and limousine were sold to Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. 23 In 1990s, GM established joint ventures with Chinese enterprises as it realised that China was a huge potential automobile market.
Not being very successful in Asia, GM considered China not only a huge market, but also an entry point to the AsiaPacific region. The GM venture was the last automobile-manufacturing project to be allowed under the state’s long-term industrial development plan. Before this joint venture, the company had already established a light-truck assembly joint venture with First Auto Works (FAW) Jinbei in the northeastern city of Shenyang. It also owned a components subsidiary, Delphi Automotive Systems, which had 21 joint venture plants in China [see Exhibit 8].
20 “GM: Buick Production Begins at GM’s Joint Venture China Plant”, M2 Presswire, April 13th 1999. Chen, Q. D “Shanghai General Motors Cooperation”, Shanghai Star, May 25th 1999. 22 “Sales of Foreign-brand Cars Slow with China’s Approach to WTO Entry”, SinoFile Information Services, June 14th 2000. 23 “China Could be Biggest Auto Market in 25 Years”, China Business Information Network, September 14th, 1999. 21 5 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer When Rudolph Schlais was dispatched to GM’s China operations as President in
1994,24 he met with senior Chinese leaders on a priority basis, and candidly asked: “What would it take for GM to be in China in a big way? ” Using information gleaned from those discussions, Schlais came up with some guidelines that helped the company to successfully put together its proposal and handle its negotiations with the Chinese government. 25 GM looked at China as part of its global market even though China lagged behind other western countries in terms of technological advancement. The company imported state-ofthe-art technology and new products into China.
“China asked, ‘What technology can you bring to help China’s auto industry develop? ’”, said Philip Murtaugh, the then head of GM’s Shanghai operations, “we were comfortable with that, so we are bringing the latest vehicle GM had introduced. ” 26 This approach contrasted with that of many other foreign manufacturers at that time, such as Chrysler, which thought that old models and out-dated technology would be sufficient to satisfy Chinese consumers. GM had decided to pledge a technology exchange in order to become a significant player in China’s automobile market.
Transferring advanced technology to China was, however, a big challenge. The difficult part, according to Rudi von Veister, who headed the China operation of Delphi Automotive Systems, was that GM was trying to achieve zero defects, flawless quality, fit and finish. Apart from constructing a modern assembly plant in Shanghai, GM also established a sophisticated research and development centre, where Chinese engineers received training to design new cars for SGM and other clients. Computers helped connect the research center to other GM technology centers worldwide; allowing engineers instantaneous access to the latest data and designs.
In July 1999, GM signed a memorandum of understanding with five Chinese universities and research institutes, namely, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiatong University, Xian Jiaotong University, Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics and the Jilin University of Technology, to promote advanced automotive technology, and provide training to automotive engineers. GM also sent Chinese engineers to Canada to observe the start-up production of new car models. 27 The introduction of automatic transmission was one of GM’s technology contributions.
GM believed that the technology would be best suited to the stop-and-go conditions of China’s congested cities, and that it would provide the necessary competitive edge in the increasingly competitive Chinese automobile industry. A key part of GM’s strategy was to foster auto components production in China, which aspired to be more than just an auto assembly site. To develop local sourcing capabilities, von Meister travelled extensively throughout China to select manufacturers that produced auto components such as brakes, engines, steering gears and ignition wires.
His goal was to set up a domestic supply system that could support the new Shanghai plant. Delphi had also entered into a joint venture with a Chinese factory near the inner Mongolian border that manufactured wiring harnesses. It also brought in new software and equipment, conducted detailed training in technology, purchasing and management, and introduced various qualityassurance processes to the wiring harness plant. 24 Rudy Schlais was President of GM China from October 1994-June 1998. Sugawara, S.
(1997) “As China’s Auto Market Accelerates, GM Jumps On”, Washington Post Foreign Service, January 2nd (year? ), A01. 26 Smith, C. and Blumenstein, R. (1998) “GM Makes an Uneasy Tradeoff in China: It Wants Access to an Immense Market. But Beijing Wants Access to its Technology”, The Wall Street Journal, February 11th (year? ), B15. 27 Sugawara S. (1997) “As China’s Auto Market Accelerates, GM Jumps On”, Washington Post Foreign Service, January 2nd(year? ), A01. 25 6 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer
Shanghai Automotive Industry Cooperation Group (SAIC) SAIC was wholly-owned by the Shanghai Municipal Government, and was one of the top three auto groups in China. Being a state-owned enterprise, SAIC was supported by and closely linked to the policy makers. SAIC became one of the Fortune 500 companies in 2003 with sales amounting to US$11. 7 billion. SAIC strived to become competitive at the international level by establishing joint ventures with 16 automobile partners, including the 50-50 joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors respectively.
It had businesses in the manufacturing of cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, parts and equipments [see Exhibit 9 and Exhibit 10]. Since SAIC had close ties with local authorities, the central government and banks, it had the power to exercise influence on the course of the Shanghai automobile industry cluster, which in turn contributed to the development of the automobile industry in China. Initially, the central government hoped to attract Volkswagen to China, with an aim to upgrade the local automotive industry, and to reduce large-scale imports of automobiles.
In 1984, SAIC joined forces with Volkswagen to produce the VW Santana, a model that dominated the Chinese auto market for the next 15 years. Holistic Supply Chain GM had to deal with an increasingly competitive environment as it was challenged by the influx of imported cars subsequent to China’s entry into WTO. Since GM strived to build a world-class automotive industry in China, it had to be competitive globally. GM understood that having competitive products was inadequate in a scenario where many automobile companies could import equally good products into the market.
GM wanted to compete not only on the product level, but also on the basis of the “whole system”. GM could aim to gain a solid foothold in China only by building a holistic supply chain. “We mean to build a whole system. That means you don’t just have a product, you have a distribution system that knows how to take care of the customers; you have brands that customers value; you have the service that takes care of people’s problems when they have vehicles; you have parts available. If you have this whole system, this cannot be matched by somebody just bringing in a new product. ”28
- Lawrence Zahner, President of GM China Group With the “whole system” in mind, the ability for GM, to have control over marketing and distribution, was a key issue in its negotiations with SAIC. GM had gained an advantage as it had the permission to establish its own distribution and sales network in China, and could reproduce a supply chain that was similar to the one in the United States. Localised Sourcing Since the first Buick came off SGM’s production line in December 1998, SGM had built several hundreds of pilot Buick cars to fine-tune the equipment and train its employees.
“Our early production vehicles have indicated that the processes and training we implemented up front are paying off. We are starting production with the quality of Buick by SGM on par with rest of the world,” said Philip F. Murtaugh, Executive Vice President of Shanghai GM. 29 The sourcing department of SGM had adopted similar systems and processes to that of GM’s Global Purchasing and Supply Chain department, and also participated in global sourcing programs to increase sourcing choices. 28 29 “GM Takes Wholistic View of its Business in China”, Business Weekly, September 12th 1999.
“GM: Buick Production Begins at GM’s Joint Venture China Plant”, M2 Presswire, April 13th 1999. 7 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer SGM also implemented a quality control process, most of which were industry-firsts in China, and met with the world standards. This helped to make sure that the Buick manufactured in Shanghai was a globally competitive product. “Our philosophy was to bring the most modern and best practices we know. Because China is a ‘piece of blank paper’. China does not need those products that are advanced to China, but out of date in the world market.
We asked ourselves why don’t we start with the best and bring that to China, and then China can be a model for the rest of the world? ”30 - Lawrence Zahner, President of GM China Group Even in the initial production stages, the Buick had already exceeded the local content requirement set by the Chinese government at 40% (by value). GM not only wanted to build a manufacturing plant, and sell products in China, but also build a components industry that could supply high technology products to GM and other customers. The Chinese automobile industry had placed US$400 million worth of orders for auto parts with SGM in 1999.
31 Delphi, which originally supplied parts to GM, started to increase its non-GM share of sales in 1997, and exported vehicle engines on a large scale to developed countries for the first time in 2002. SGM acquired Daewoo Motor’s engine development plant in the eastern province of Shandong in February 2004, as a move to support growing production needs, complement the range of products offered by SGM and to make full use of global resources. However, GM also imported components from abroad to supply production in China.
For example, SGM sold both, imported and domestically assembled models of Cadillacs in China, where most of the components for local assembly were imported. The SGM Shanghai plant imported about US$1. 6 billion worth of parts, components and equipment from North and South America during the first five years, while 50% of parts came from domestic sources. 32 New Product Development “We've got car nuts in China just like in the States 50 years ago — really superb product guys who are so focused on product excellence they could easily have a future outside China.
” — Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman and Product Development Chief of General Motors33 SGM attribute the 26% sales growth in China in 2004 largely to its momentum in introducing new and upgraded products and services. When SGM started selling the Buick model in 1999, it introduced three versions of the Buick family in five months. Apart from targeting the high-end segment with the Buick model, SGM also rolled out different models targeting the family, middle-income and specific age groups [Exhibit 11].
While most of the models sold in China were manufactured locally, SGM also expanded its import lines by bringing in Cadillacs in June 2004. The Shanghai manufacturing plant was identical to other plants in the developing countries, and was equipped with state-of-the-art technology. This helped GM to quickly replicate cars that were built in other countries. To realise scale economies, GM tried to design and build vehicles that shared a common global platform. GM had adopted a global collaboration 30 “GM Takes Wholistic View of its Business in China”, Business Weekly, September 12th 1999.
“China Places Big Orders for GM Auto Parts”, China Business Information Network, April 1st 1999. 32 “General Motors Signs US$ 230 Million Venture in China”, Associated Press Newswires, June 22nd 1998. 33 Smith, D. C. “Coming on Strong”, Ward’s Auto World, December 1st 2004. 31 8 05/239C Shanghai General Motors: The Rise of a Late-Comer strategy whereby designs and parts were shared among countries. The company also built engineering centers in India, South Korea and China to design new car models for different markets.
Engineers in Toronto communicated via teleconferencing almost daily with counterparts in the engineering centers to swap virtual-reality renderings of the vehicles, and collaborated on the styling of exteriors and design of the components. For example, the Chevrolet Cavalier’s 3. 4-litre V6 engine was built in China with collaborative efforts from engineers in Canada, US, Japan and China. James Shyr, Director of Design at Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC),34 a joint venture between GM and SAIC, led a team that designed cars to be produced and sold in China. His team comprised 62 workers, all Chinese nationals.
PATAC was equipped with advanced equipment, including a virtual-reality studio that allowed staff from all over the world to share and view computer-generated designs in real time. In 1999, PATAC adapted the Buick Sail from GM's Adam Opel AG Corsa small car, and changed the suspension to suit China's mostly cement roads (as opposed to the asphalt roads abroad). In 2001, PATAC began to re-engineer the Buick Regal in the upper-medium range, which was introduced in December 2002, and quickly became GM's best-selling car in China. To deepen the inroads made by Buick, PATAC selected a model from GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.
to fit below Regal in the lower-medium sedan segment, renaming it the Buick Excelle [see Exhibit 11]. 35 The Buicks were redesigned to suit customer preferences in the Chinese market. While Americans usually put children in the back seats, Chinese companies tend to put their bosses there. Therefore, the Buicks in China were modified such that the back seats were raised, more leg room provided and large DVD screens were added on the back of front headrests, as were the rear-mounted heating and air-conditioning controls, built-in phones and privacy shades. The suspens