If Michael Dunne is right and the Chinese insist that all foreign automakers transfer their electric car technology to their Chinese partners, it could mark the beginning of the end for the world’s automakers, which have been making huge profits in China.
When I visited Shanghai in 2008 to write about General Motors’ joint venture with SAIC, an entity owned by the city of Shanghai, I learned that GM and SAIC had created a joint venture that stood apart from both parent organizations. Technology and personnel in the joint venture could not be moved to either parent. It was, in effect, sealed off. This is one reason the Chinese have not been able to mount a true offensive in the global auto industry. They have as many as 140 different auto companies and their joint ventures with foreign firms are not giving them the technology and skills they want.
But if now, as Dunne suggests, the Chinese insist on transfer of technology to the joint ventures and the Chinese companies are majority owners, they will quickly own the best technology that the outside world has come up with. It’s a power play. And it’s one that the West’s governments and car companies should make sure to thwart.