Cars, China & Cruising in the Dart

Uncategorized Posted Jan 11, 2012 by Chris Carleton

The Big Kahuna of US auto shows – the North American International Auto Show – revs up this week in Motor City and runs through January 22. Boston-Power International Chairman Christina Lampe-Onnerud will be there meeting-and-greeting with industry movers-and-shakers.

And she’s participating in the Automotive News World Congress, joining a Who’s Who industry list of speakers from GM, Toyota, Renault-Nissan, Mazda, Ford, BorgWarner, Chrysler, Hyundai, Nexteer and others. Her panel – China: What’s the status of the China automotive industry and where are the opportunities for growth? – will address arguably one of the most important topics on the minds of the industry in the US and around the world.

With 2011 marking the first time in GM’s 102 year history that it sold more vehicles in China than in the US as just one of proof points too numerous to list here, all eyes remain steadfastly fixed on that market.

Christina has abundant real-world insights to share. Among the most heavily funded developers of next-generation lithium-ion batteries for EVs and PHEVs, Boston-Power in September announced $125 million in funding to substantially expand its focus and operations in China. The funding comprised private equity capital in a round led by fast-growing Beijing-based VC firm GSR Ventures and government support from China. The company added more funding just before the holidays – all going toward building one of the world’s most advanced battery manufacturing operations in the Shanghai Corridor and paired with a R&D center in Beijing.

These recent events are hardly Boston-Power’s first forays into China. Christina prototyped the early versions of her battery cells there – funding it out of her own pocket and trading her technical and manufacturing skills in return for access to a production line. Watch for Boston-Power to announce Chinese car companies as customers in the coming year…

And just have to close this post by saying how excited I am to hear that Dodge is resurrecting the Dodge Dart brand. Based on an Alfa Romeo frame and suspension system, the only thing it shares with the former model is the name. But it brings back great memories of the one I was tooling around in when living in Washington, DC in the late 80s. I’d bought it from a retired couple and it served proudly as the 1987 ‘junker car of the year’ for my friends and me until meeting its untimely demise at the hands of a broken torsion bar suffered while on the way to my Sunday morning soccer game with what proved to be too many teammates in tow! Mine was just as banana yellow as this one – but not nearly in as good shape. It was, however, indestructible until the unfortunate aforementioned death knell. Let’s hope the same holds true for the ‘rebirthed’ one when it comes to market next year!