Geely to launch fly­ing cars af­ter Ter­rafu­gia deal

The Star Malaysia - - World -

BEIJING: Au­to­mo­tive giant Zhe­jiang Geely Hold­ing Group said that it will roll out its first fly­ing car in 2019 in the US af­ter the Chi­nese com­pany de­cided to buy Mas­sachusetts-based startup Ter­rafu­gia, which is pi­o­neer­ing such ve­hi­cles.

Geely said it will ac­quire all the oper­a­tions and as­sets of Ter­rafu­gia and has re­ceived all the nec­es­sary ap­provals for the deal, in­clud­ing the Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ment in the United States. It, how­ever, did not dis­close any fi­nan­cial de­tails of the deal.

Founded in 2006 by five grad­u­ates of the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, Ter­rafu­gia launched its first fly­ing car model Tran­si­tion in 2012, with an es­ti­mated base price of US$279,000 (RM1.17mil) then.

In 2013, the com­pany re­leased the de­sign for its next model TF-X, which is the world’s first fly­ing car ca­pa­ble of ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing.

It is ex­pected to be avail­able by 2023.

Geely said it would fur­ther in­vest in the fly­ing car business and cre­ate additional jobs for Ter­rafu­gia upon the com­ple­tion of the deal.

How­ever, the car will not be avail­able in the Chi­nese mar­ket in the short term due to the coun­try’s reg­u­la­tions on low-al­ti­tude fly­ing.

Geely’s in­no­va­tion cen­tre in Hangzhou will also be used by Ter­rafu­gia. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the trans­ac­tion, Ter­rafu­gia’s team of en­gi­neers in the US has been tripled over the past quar­ter with Geely’s sup­port.

Li Shufu, founder and chair­man of Geely Group, con­sid­ers fly­ing cars as the ul­ti­mate mo­bil­ity solution. The group’s international oper­a­tions and track record for in­no­va­tion will make the fly­ing car a com­mer­cial re­al­ity, he said.

Ter­rafu­gia’s newly ap­pointed CEO Chris Jaran said the first pri­or­ity would be to ex­pand the com­pany’s R&D ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Shen­zhen-based tech­nol­ogy giant Ten­cent Hold­ings has led the US$90mil (RM377mil) series B fi­nanc­ing in the Ger­man fly­ing car startup Lil­ium.

Other in­dus­try lead­ers such as Air­bus, Toy­ota, Uber and Google have all stepped into the fly­ing car sec­tor, as it is be­lieved to be the next big thing fol­low­ing au­ton­o­mous driv­ing.

Yale Zhang, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Shang­hai-based con­sult­ing firm Au­to­mo­tive Fore­sight, ad­mit­ted that such cars will help al­le­vi­ate traf­fic jams, but added that they are a lit­tle bit far from re­al­ity.

“The main prob­lem is tech­nol­ogy. They have to run fast but at the same time have to be af­ford­able.

“If they cost as much as US$2mil (RM8.4mil), then they mean noth­ing to the pub­lic. Then there is the leg­is­la­tion,” he said.

John Zeng, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of LMC Au­to­mo­tive Shang­hai, said that such cars might be eas­ier to pro­mote in North Amer­ica, where there is less reg­u­la­tions over the sky and has a much smaller pop­u­la­tion, like Canada.

“But it would be hard to imag­ine cars fly­ing in densely pop­u­lated Chi­nese cities,” he said. “At least in the short term, fly­ing cars will not be­come some­thing im­por­tant in Geely’s business.” — China Daily / Asia News Net­work

They have to run fast but at the same time they have to be af­ford­able.

John Zeng

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