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USA/China: Levin: Bar efforts to coerce GM production of Volt in China

David Shepardson/ Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sen. Carl Levin wants the Obama administration to prevent China from “coercing” General Motors Co. and other American companies from turning over key technologies.

In a letter Friday, the Detroit Democrat asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank to intervene to prevent the transfer of U.S. technology.

China is offering consumer incentives of up to $19,000 to purchase vehicles like the extended range plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt — if the vehicles are assembled in China.

“The Chevrolet Volt represents intellectual property developed in the United States and paid for by General Motors research and development dollars,” Levin wrote. “The U.S. government must not allow China to coerce American companies to give their technology away to their foreign competitors in order to have access to their markets.”

He asked the government to investigate China’s handling of the Volt, and to file a World Trade Organization complaint if necessary.

The effort comes as General Motors board of directors led by chairman and CEO Dan Akerson plans to hold its first ever meeting in China next week. GM — through its joint ventures — is the largest automaker in China. GM’s board will spend three days in Shanghai, holding meetings with employees, joint venture partner SAIC and others, said GM spokesman Jay Cooney.

GM’s China sales were up 30 percent in 2010. This year, sales are up 5.4 percent through August, as GM sold 1.6 million vehicles in the first eight months in China. GM plans to invest between $5 billion and $7 billion in China over the next five years, introduce more than 60 new or significantly refreshed models and more than double sales to 5 million vehicles, Cooney said.

GM said this week it has no immediate plans to assemble the Volt in China.
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