China to GM: Give us Chevy Volt secrets or it'll cost $19,000 more

Like many countries, China provides subsidies to support the use of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Considering the heavy levels of pollution often found in China's rapidly growing cities, this seems both admirable and understandable. It can also be significant, with subsidies going as high as $19,300.

As General Motors seeks to introduce the Chevrolet Volt to the Chinese market, it's counting on these subsidies to help make the car attractive to potential buyers. It could work, too, since the Chinese subsidies are large enough to essentially slice the Volt's MSRP in half. However, according to The New York Times, the Chinese government has put a big roadblock in front of the plug-in Chevy:

The Chinese government is refusing to let the Volt qualify for subsidies totaling up to $19,300 a car unless G.M. agrees to transfer the engineering secrets for one of the Volt's three main technologies to a joint venture in China with a Chinese automaker, G.M. officials said. Some international trade experts said China would risk violating World Trade Organization rules if it imposed that requirement.

According to the Times, the Chinese demand includes handing over information about the Volt's electric motors, its control system or batteries. Similar demands for trade secrets have reportedly made other electric vehicle makers leery of entering the Chinese market. The Nissan Leaf is unavailable in China, and while Nissan officially refuses to comment on the reason, it's thought that this sort of government demand for intellectual property is behind Nissan's reluctance to consider the Chinese market – despite the high potential subsidies and growing demand.

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