Chi­nese in­vestors buy Ky­oto sportscar maker

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - MOTORING -

China’s drive to dom­i­nate the elec­tric ve­hi­cle mar­ket has claimed an­other over­seas tar­get.

When Ja­panese elec­tric ve­hi­cle startup GLM needed more fund­ing to put its high-end sports car into pro­duc­tion, do­mes­tic back­ers couldn’t muster the fi­nanc­ing.

The search for an in­vestor ended last week, when a Hong Kong-based in­vest­ment com­pany called O Luxe Hold­ings agreed to pur­chase the firm for 12.8 bil­lion yen ($113 mil­lion).

O Luxe will fund the deal by is­su­ing new shares to stock­hold­ers, which in­clude Chi­nese TV maker TCL. With the back­ing of its new owner, GLM gets ac­cess to global money for re­search and devel­op­ment, founder and CEO Hiroy­asu Koma said in an in­ter­view at his Ky­oto head­quar­ters af­ter the sale.

“Elec­tric ve­hi­cles are catch­ing on, and China is the leader,” Koma said. “But Ja­panese tech­nol­ogy will main­tain an edge for the next five years and we want to take a share of the mar­ket.”

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is pour­ing sub­si­dies into the do­mes­tic marke t for new en­ergy ve­hi­cles and Chi­nese com­pa­nies are snap­ping up for­eign bat­tery and elec­tric ve­hi­cle mak­ers like GLM in or­der to beef up their tech­nol­ogy.

In a fil­ing to the Hong Kong Stock Ex­change, O Luxe said the ac­qui­si­tion rep- re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to tap into the fast grow­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cle in­dus­try.

Un­der its new owner, GLM plans to start pro­duc­tion of its G4 ul­tra-lux­ury sports car — which has a planned price tag of 40 mil­lion yen — in the sec­ond half of 2019.

There are also plans, he said, to in­tro­duce an elec­tric mini-bus and a seven-seater fam­ily car, adapt­ing the G4’s powertrain and other key elec­tri­cal com­po­nents.

Founded in 2010 by seven en­gi­neers who de­fected from Toy­ota Mo­tor and other Ja­panese au­tomak­ers, GLM’s first model was a light­weight two-door sports car called the Tom­mykaira ZZ, which de­buted in Ja­pan in 2014 for about 8 mil­lion yen. Fewer than 100 have sold, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

While GLM will count on sales of its ve­hi­cles to keep the busi­ness go­ing in the short term, Koma said the emphasis will shift to­ward sup­ply­ing other car­mak­ers with cus­tom­ized en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions and com­po­nents like chas­sis plat­forms, power sys­tems and con­trol units.

The com­pany is close to sign­ing sev­eral con­tracts to sup­ply car­mak­ers mostly in China, he said, with­out nam­ing the firms.

Wang Jian­feng, chair­man of Ningbo Joyson Elec­tronic, whose United States sub­sidiar y last month agreed to buy bank­rupt Ja­panese a i r b a g m a k e r Ta k a t a , i n April said the coun­try’s auto in­dus­try can’t com­pete glob­ally with­out ab­sorb­ing more for­eign en­gi­neer­ing knowhow.

The deal for GLM fol­lows a se­ries of global elec­tric ve­hi­cle in­vest­ments for Chi­nese firms.

In t h e l a s t f i v e y e a r s , au­toparts maker Wanx­i­ang Group bought the Karma elec­tric car busi­ness op­er­ated by US startup Fisker Au­to­mo­tive, along with Karma’s bat­tery sup­plier, A123 Sys­tems.

Jia Yuet­ing, the founder of Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany L eEco, is an in­vestor in Fara­day Fu­ture, the L os An­ge­les-based maker of elec­tric sports cars that hopes one day to com­pete with Tesla.

C hi­nese pri­vate eq­uity firm GSR Cap­i­tal is re­port­edly close to a deal to buy a bat­tery ven­ture owned by Nis­san Mo­tor.

Elec­tric ve­hi­cles are catch­ing on, and China is the leader.” Hiroy­asu Koma, founder and CEO of Ja­panese elec­tric ve­hi­cle startup GLM

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