GM to Build Hybrid Cars in China from 2008

General Motors will begin producing a hybrid car in China from next year, in time for the Beijing Olympics in August, the U.S. automaker said on Wednesday.

Shanghai GM, one of GM's local Chinese joint ventures with SAIC Motor, will disclose details closer to the undisclosed model's launch, a spokesman for GM Asia-Pacific said.

Demand for hybrids is negligible in China, where fuel economy figures little in consumers' purchasing decisions. Hybrid cars are also expensive since the government offers no incentives on their purchase.

Toyota Motor is currently the only carmaker that builds a hybrid car in China. It sold just 2,000 of the Prius hybrid last year.

Assembling fuel-saving hybrid cars in China, one of GM's most important markets, is another step in the U.S. automaker's efforts to paint a more environmentally friendly image of itself as consumers increasingly look for better mileage amid record-high energy prices.

In other efforts, GM is planning to launch a plug-in hybrid car, the Chevrolet Volt, by the end of 2010, becoming the only automaker to provide a timeline on production for the rechargeable vehicle.