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GM accelerates China push with electric Cadillacs

Automaker plans 20 new and updated models this year in world's top car market

GM's Cadillac sales rose 17% to over 200,000 units last year in China, where the luxury vehicle is popular with wealthy buyers.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- General Motors is preparing to sell electric versions of its luxury Cadillac brand, challenging Tesla and other high-end competitors in China's growing market for environmentally friendly vehicles.

GM already offers various electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt. The company looks to extend the option to Cadillacs, which are popular among wealthy Chinese, in hopes of capturing a bigger piece of the world's largest car market -- both for conventional and electric autos.

CEO Mary Barra discussed the planned electric Cadillacs during a shareholders event Friday, although the American carmaker has not identified specific models or announced when they will be released. The electric Cadillacs likely will be equipped with new batteries GM is developing, which could let the vehicles travel about 480 km on a full charge.

New-car sales in China are expected to show a decline in 2018 for the first time in 28 years. Though GM's overall Chinese sales also fell, the Cadillac brand itself increased 17% to over 200,000 units.

Barra said she expects long-term growth in China despite short-term challenges. The automaker will release over 20 new and updated models in the country this year.

The chief executive also defended GM's November decision to shut down five factories in North America, a move that drew criticism from President Donald Trump. Regulatory hurdles and the changing trade environment force the company to act while the economy is strong, she said.

In line with streamlined North American production, GM will reduce the number of models offered under its Chevrolet and Buick brands. The automaker also plans to introduce eight models with shared designs and components in emerging economies like China, Brazil and Mexico, replacing existing ones that cannot be produced as efficiently.

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