Small Ecotec gas engines, GM gives the reins to the Chinese

Ecotec-small-gas-engineEvery driver knows that downsizing is a very big thing now, with every manufacturer replacing old low tech big engines with smaller high tech ones. Ford recently showed a Focus with a turbocharged 3-cylinder, and General Motors announces it will develop a new family of very small Ecotec (spark-ignited) engines. They will range from 1 to 1.5 liters, with 3 or 4 cylinders. Those engines will be used all over the world, under different GM brands, like Opel, Chevrolet and most important SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.). This latest brand matters more than the others, since it will have in its say in the engine’s development. And much more than that actually.

Together with SGM (Shanghai General Motors) and PATAC (Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, a GM joint-venture with SAIC), the new Ecotec engines will be nearly entirely Chinese-designed. I believe this is a first for a western company like GM, to outsource such a large engineering project to its Chinese partners and affiliates. We knew China as the world’s largest factory, much less so for its engineering abilities. If they prove competitive, we shall fear it even more. And wonder about what will be left to engineers in America and Europe. Development of the Corvette’s engine will undoubtedly remain in America, but the future is in smaller units.