SAIC Motor Corporation Limited (SAIC, formerly Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) is a Chinese state-owned automotive design and manufacturing company headquartered in Shanghai, China, with multinational operations. A Fortune Global 100 company and one of the "Big Four" state-owned Chinese automakers (along with Chang'an Motors, FAW Group, and Dongfeng Motor), the company had the largest production volume of any Chinese automaker in 2014 making more than 4.5 million vehicles. Its manufacturing mix is not wholly consumer offerings, however, with as many as 1,000,000+ SAIC passenger vehicles being commercial vans.
SAIC traces its origins to the early years of the Chinese automobile industry in the 1940s, and SAIC was one of the few carmakers in Mao's China, making the Shanghai SH760. Currently, it participates in the oldest surviving sino-foreign car making joint venture, with Volkswagen, and in addition has had a joint venture and 40% shares of General Motors since 1998. SAIC products sell under a variety of brand names, including those of its joint venture partners. Two notable brands owned by SAIC itself are MG, a historic British car marque, and Roewe, one of the few domestic Chinese luxury car brands.
Although it has a long history, originating from an automobile assembly factory established in Shanghai sometime around World War II, SAIC, unlike domestic rivals FAW Group and Dongfeng Motors, has only recently attained a position of prominence in the Chinese vehicle industry. A small company in the 1970s, SAIC owes its rise to more than an increase in domestic demand for passenger vehicles. A cooperative agreement made with Volkswagen in 1984 followed by the formal establishment of Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co Ltd in March 1985 allowed it to produce competitive cars with foreign technology. Early success at SAIC may also be a result of guidance provided by local Shanghai authorities; at one time SAIC was simply an extension of the Shanghai Municipal government. For these two reasons and more, SAIC grew swiftly. In the 11 years leading to 1996, annual production capacity increased ten-fold to 300,000 units/year, and the company established itself as one of the leading Chinese automakers.
During this period, SAIC effectively built an entire modern automotive component supply chain in Shanghai from scratch, and the number and quality of locally produced auto parts rose significantly. Cars that were previously assembled in China from knock-down kits provisioned by Volkswagen became products built from parts produced in Shanghai, and between 1990 and 1996 the city more than doubled its contribution to the national output of automotive components. In 1987, the only local parts used in one car, the Volkswagen Santana, were tires, radio, and antenna, but by 1998 over 90% of the components used in its manufacture were locally sourced. A goal set by the Shanghai Municipal government, creation of a local parts industry is an example of the influence that the local government has had on the development of SAIC.
In June 1997, SAIC formed a second major joint venture, Shanghai General Motors Co Ltd, with General Motors. The new joint venture began operations in 1998, and helped to drive a doubling in SAIC's vehicle production between 2000 and 2004. Initially partnering with foreign automakers, creating joint ventures with component suppliers, such as the American Visteon, may now help underpin SAIC success.
At the start of the 2000s, SAIC made several acquisitions in Korea. In 2002 it participated in GM's purchase of Korean automaker Daewoo, acquiring a 10% stake in the newly formed GM Daewoo company for US$59.7 million, and in 2004 it also assumed control of an ailing South Korean automaker, SsangYong Motor, paying US$500 million for 48.9% ownership of the company. Around this time SAIC created a new holding company for its subsidiaries employed in passenger car production, Shanghai Automotive Group.
In the middle of the decade, SAIC attempted to acquire the British automaker MG Rover, but in 2005 was outbid by another Chinese automaker, Nanjing Automobile. SAIC did manage to obtain some MG Rover technology that was incorporated into a new line of luxury sedans sold under the Roewe marque, and it subsequently purchased the winning bidder.
While the company saw sales success in the late 2000s, with 2.72 million vehicles sold in 2009, its 2004 purchase of an ownership stake in a Korean SUV-maker, Ssangyong, soured. In January 2009, after an additional US$45 million was provided to it by SAIC, SsangYong Motor Company was placed into receivership in Korea. Courts might have mandated SAIC reduce its ownership, and by 2010 a 51.33% share of the Korean company had become a 10% one. The 2009 Ssangyong failure also saw riot police quell protesting Ssangyong workers who staged a 77-day-long sit in. SAIC may have benefitted from exposure to some technology from Mercedes that Ssangyong controlled during this time.
In 2010, SAIC produced 3.58 million units, the largest output of any China-based automaker that year.
On 13 April 2011, mass production resumed at the MG Motor UK Longbridge plant as the first MG 6 to be produced in the United Kingdom came off the production line. This plant is likely little more than a CKD factory on a par with similar setups in Africa and other developing nations.
In 2011, SAIC produced 3.97 million vehicles, the largest output of any China-based automaker that year.
In June 2012, SAIC's United States-based subsidiary Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp USA, Inc. opened a new North American Operations Center in Birmingham, Michigan. The opening ceremony was attended by the Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and senior executives from General Motors and SAIC Motor. The 30,000-square-foot, three-story facility will house nearly 100 staff and focus on sourcing components.
In 2012, SAIC retained its top spot among domestic rivals by producing around 3.5 million units.
The present-day SAIC is the product of numerous mergers and corporate re-structurings. Shanghai Internal Combustion Engine Components Company was founded in December 1955. In March 1958, Shanghai Internal Combustion Engine Components Company and Shanghai Powertrain Equipment Manufacturing Company were merged into Shanghai Powertrain Machinery Manufacturing Company. In January 1960, Shanghai Powertrain Machinery Manufacturing Company was renamed Shanghai Agricultural Machinery Manufacturing Company. In April 1969, Shanghai Agricultural Machinery Manufacturing Company was renamed Shanghai Tractor Industry Company. Shanghai Automobile & Tractor Company was established in July 1984. In March 1990, Shanghai Automobile & Tractor Company was renamed Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (Group) was founded in September 1995.
SAIC sells vehicles under a variety of brands. Brand names that are exclusive to SAIC include Maxus, MG, Roewe, and Yuejin. Products produced by SAIC joint venture companies are sold under marques including Baojun, Buick, Chevrolet, Iveco, Škoda, Volkswagen, and Wuling.
SAIC participates in cooperative efforts with foreign automakers that see the products of large international companies such as General Motors and Volkswagen made and sold in China. Sino-foreign joint ventures that SAIC is involved with include Nanjing Iveco Auto Co Ltd ("New Naveco") with Iveco, Saic-Iveco Commercial Vehicle Co Ltd, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile, Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive, Shanghai General Motors Corporation, and Shanghai Sunwin with Volvo.
SAIC has numerous production facilities in China, including sites in: Chongqing, Liuzhou, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Yantai. It also had an assembly plant in the United Kingdom, the Longbridge plant.
SAIC operates a large research and development centre in the United Kingdom, the SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre, which as of 2012 employs around 275 engineers and 25 designers. The UK Technical Centre is the principal site worldwide for the development of MG cars, and it also plays a major role in the development of Roewe products.