Aston Martin sets up electric car joint venture with Chinese group

Aston Martin is setting up a venture with the Chinese consumer electronics group LeEco to jointly develop the British luxury car brand’s first electric vehicle.

Aston Martin and LeEco said they plan to develop the RapidE electric car based on the British carmaker’s Rapide S model, before developing other potential electric vehicles, including for LeEco. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Companies such as Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and LeEco are developing automotive expertise because they want to broaden their reach beyond search engines, computers and cellphones into cars, while automakers want internet connectivity to give drivers live traffic updates and infotainment.

“It brings Aston Martin’s electric car project forward,” said Andy Palmer, the Aston Martin chief executive, said at a news conference in Frankfurt on Wednesday, adding it would come to market in 2018, and be built in Gaydon, England.

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LeEco, a consumer electronics company that offers branded content via the internet, television set-top boxes and smartphones, hopes to use its captive audience and celebrity endorsements to promote cars.

“In China we have around 300 million people who visit our website. We could advertise the Aston Martin for free. And we can use celebrities to promote our vehicle. This is the way we do business,” said Lei Ding, co-founder of LeEco’s auto division, who previously held senior positions at joint ventures of Volkswagen and General Motors in China.

The electric car development platform by Aston and LeEco could also be used by Faraday Future, a startup electric car firm backed by the Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the companies said.

“Aston can offer expertise in ride, handling refinement and those sorts of things,” Palmer said.

China’s government is promoting electric vehicles to cut the smog that frequently envelops the country’s cities, which officials say helped sales quadruple last year and has turned it into the world’s biggest market for the technology.

An electric car joint venture of Taiwan’s Hon Hai, China’s Tencent and China Harmony Auto Holding said this month it was hiring the former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld to lead it.

Harmony Futeng, launched last March, is one of several Chinese tech companies trying to develop “smart” and electric vehicles. These include Alibaba, Baidu and Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing, recently rebranded as LeEco.

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Source: theguardian

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