General Motors Wednesday unveiled a new concept car that it hopes will solidify its position in electric vehicles, not least in China, the world's biggest auto market.
GM showcased the EN-V, or Electric Networked-Vehicle, at a pavilion that it will share with its China joint venture partner, SAIC Motor Corp, during the World Expo to be held in Shanghai from May through October.
The two-seater EN-V, which would be networked with other cars to help avoid accidents and ease traffic in congested major cities like Shanghai, would not hit showrooms for another 10 to 20 years.
But GM is looking to the model, which is about one-third the length of a standard passenger car, to help establish itself as a significant player in cutting-edge, fuel-efficient vehicles while it seeks to reinvent itself after coming out of bankruptcy last July.
In the EN-V we are really showing a new concept, for not just electrified vehicles but a reinvented vehicle experience for mega cities, Alan Taub, GM's vice president for global research and development, told reporters in Shanghai.
We break the paradigm of how vehicles are driven today.
GM's choice of China to unveil the new concept car underscores the country's growing importance to global automakers. China is already GM's second-largest market after the United States, and it marked a phenomenal 2009 when its China sales broke records every month.
The focus on a compact, low-emission vehicle contrasts with GM's struggle to find a buyer for its iconic but tarnished Hummer brand, which had become synonymous with gas-guzzling excess.
GM had agreed to sell Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co, a little-known company based in southwestern China's Sichuan province, but the deal failed to win Chinese government approval.
The EN-V is not GM's first effort to reposition itself with more environmentally friendly models.
The Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, slated to reach showrooms in late 2010, is key to GM's effort to revamp its image and win back consumer trust after emerging from bankruptcy.
(Reporting by Fang Yan and Jason Subler; Editing by Edmund Klamann)