SHANGHAI -- Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp. (BAIC) has lagged domestic peers in the development of its own carmaking brand. Yet now that looks set to change.
The state-owned automaker is marshalling newly acquired technology and talent brought in from overseas. Thanks to these, it has been able to draw up a roadmap of product development for the next few years.
That's real progress for company that has until now struggled to create a name for itself in the world's biggest car market.
A decade ago when it granted state-owned companies the privilege of forming joint ventures with global automakers, the Chinese government expected a transfer of knowledge that would eventually foster a strong team of domestic auto brands.
When compared with other homegrown companies, BAIC failed to make good use of its opportunity.
Today it has no projects that can compare to Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., which has launched three models under its own sedan brand Roewe. China FAW Group Corp. and Dongfeng Motor Co., meanwhile, have also marketed their own brand models with technologies gained from joint venture partners Mazda Motor Co. and PSA Peugeot Citreon.
Yet judging by a detailed plan unveiled at last month's Beijing auto show, the Beijing-based automaker could soon be catching up.
Over the past two years BAIC has recruited more than 100 automotive professionals; both from overseas and other automakers within China. Many of them are Chinese engineers who previously worked for GM or Ford in the U.S.
Then last December BAIC paid $200 million for technology from General Motors' Saab unit, including the rights to three vehicle platforms, two engine technologies and two transmission systems.
Building on this platform, BAIC plans to launch its first own brand sedan, the C60 subcompact, in 2011. It will be followed by the C71 compact sedan and C80 mid-sized sedan in 2012, and the C50 compact sedan in 2013.
To add to these, the company will also put on sale a series of micro cars, SUVs and crossovers using its own technologies as well as technologies it took over from an earlier joint venture it established with what was then the American Motor Company in the 1980s.
BAIC thus intends to roll out a total of 20 new products, covering a full range of market segments.
To be sure, foreign technology and foreign-trained talent could not have guaranteed BAIC a strong footing on the increasingly competitive domestic auto market.
But with a clear-cut product plan and a strong talent pool, BAIC is now well positioned to take on other state-owned automakers.
In fact, SAIC aside, no other state-owned automaker has yet formulated as detailed a product development strategy, or displayed the same willingness to hire talents from the outside world as BAIC.