Aston Martin to build Electric Cars for Chinese Internet Giant
It seems that the worlds of electronic gadgetry and car making are colliding with increasing speed with yet another announcement from an Internet upstart that they are to venture into the wonderful world of mobility.
The upstart in this case is LeTV, which is of course headed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, who has also started a company staffed by ex-Tesla, called Faraday Future, in Elon Musk’s backyard. (see also: Mysterious Chinese Billionaire targets Tesla). However, the new company, which does not seem to have a finalised name yet, is not related with or to Faraday. Instead, it is a new venture between Aston Martin and LeTV that could see the British supercar builder manufacture “connected” electric vehicles for the Chinese internet giant.
This deal has had a rather slow gestation period and has been in the incubator since the Shanghai motor show in April 2015. It will result in “the two companies working together on research projects ranging from connected car technologies through to manufacturing consultation on new electric vehicles”, according to an official statement.
The first project will be to develop a Rapide S “connected car” concept, which is slated for a January 2016 reveal at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES). LeTV ventured into mobility in January 2015 when they launched “LeUI for Auto”, a custom operating system for cars that enables voice, touch and motion control, on top of navigation, online radio, music streaming, and roadside assistance services. The system is part of a LeTV’s bigger vision to connect all its products – such as smartphones, televisions and now cars – in a single network. It hasn’t been confirmed, however, whether LeUI for Auto will be used as the basis of the Rapide S concept.
The company also established the Leshi Super Electric Car Company early this year, appointing Lu Zhengyu, formerly from Infiniti, as Vice President. LeTV is rumoured to have made significant progress on its plans to manufacture its own production cars. During the summer, they released sketches of a potential project called Le Supercar, which appears to be similar to those released by Faraday. A concept version of their first car is expected to debut in the Beijing Motor Show next April.
At present, the initial production seems to be destined for Aston Martin’s Gaydon headquarters and not with Faraday in the USA or in Mainland China. Aston is already developing its very own electric car and of course the expertise that goes along with this is highlighted by the RapidE concept unveiled in October. A production version of that car is expected to go on sale in roughly two years and is also expected to prominently feature LeTV’s connected car technology.
The news will be welcome for the British car manufacturing market as the plan to build a car on behalf of LeTV means that Aston Martin would need to consider increasing its production capacity. In fact, chief executive Andy Palmer had earlier this year spoken of the need to search for a new factory site to accommodate the company’s own widening model range.
42-year-old billionaire president of LeTV, Jia, is leading the company to the forefront of China’s adoption of electric vehicles, to overcome the nation’s chronic pollution and traffic congestion problems. LeTV recently invested in electric infrastructure specialist Beijing Dianzhuang Technology Company to tackle the challenge of installing EV charging points across the country. Faraday Future, which reportedly received funding from LeTV, is planning to reveal its first concept car at the CES next month and has plans for a US$1 billion manufacturing site in Las Vegas. LeTV is also said to have a financial interest in Atieva, another company in North America, that is also developing an electric car.