I’ve long (at least 6 months anyway) said that the best thing that could happen to jumpstart the production of plug-in hybrids by American car companies would be for a Chinese car company to announce its intentions to build the same.

My reasoning? It would be a perfect wedge product into the American market. Where consumers might be skeptical about buying a traditional Chinese car, people would line up to buy a PHEV, provenance notwithstanding, because they got no place else to go.

That way, my internal dialog posited, American car makers would be highly incentivized to bring a PHEV to market in order to cover the niche and block the wedge.

Who knows what the sequence of events was, but contemporaneous with GM’s encouraging announcement on the Volt comes this on China:

Malcolm Bricklin, the maverick entrepreneur whose efforts to import the first Chinese-made car to the United States have suffered repeated delays, said on Sunday he is talking with 15 new potential partners in China.

On Sunday he said that the import, now be targeted to be in U.S. showrooms by 2009, would be powered by an electric hybrid plug-in engine, a change that contributed to the recent split with his original Chinese partner, Chery Automobile Co.

Bricklin said the powerplant would be similar to the one General Motors Corp. used in a concept car it unveiled on Sunday, the Volt, which is designed to use little or no gasoline.