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Auto industry's global footprint brings business opportunities

By Paul Welitzkin | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-01-18 00:55

A walk through the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week confirms what everyone in the auto industry has been saying for years. The car business is a global enterprise as technological advances like self-driving vehicles, interactive safety systems and vehicle connectivity change the game.

As the automobile becomes more of a player in the digital world, that dynamic is attracting participants from China, the US, Europe and elsewhere. Because of the global nature of the market, some of those participants are seeking and finding opportunities with each other.

That was on full display at the show's AutoMobili-D, a special innovation community within the auto show that featured more than 50 startups from around the world. It was the second year for the event which focused on mobility.

Beijing Leeches Technology Co Ltd demonstrated the V5, an electric commercial delivery van that made its debut in the mainland about a month ago.

"We provide vehicle design and integration with a focus on electrification," said Sun Gang, a director in the company's intelligent and connected division. He said they took a gas-powered van and converted it to run on an electric power plant.

The van has a range of about 125 miles (200 kilometers) before needing a charge. Sun's company is a joint venture involving Jiangxi Shangrao Changyue Automobile Co Ltd, Chongqing Changan Kuayue Automobile Co Ltd, Yuncai Holdings Group Capital and Leeschs. The first two are car makers in China and Yuncai provides investment capital. Beijing-based Leeches focuses on research and development.

Gang and his 30-something cohorts are eager to make products to enhance safety and vehicle connectivity. "Eventually we would like to enter the US and other markets," Sun said.

In another section of the AutoMobili-D expo was Ravi Puvvala, the CEO of Savari. Since 2008 Savari has been delivering safety communications technologies that enable connected vehicles to interact with other vehicles, road-side infrastructure, smartphones and pedestrians.

Puvvala said Savari is an automotive software company. "We build active-safety technology utilizing car-to-car communication," he said. "We enable all cars to talk to each other through software inside the car so they can avoid accidents."

Puvvala said China's SAIC Motor Corp Ltd has been an investor for nearly three years and has enabled Savari to penetrate the Chinese market. "They have been a great partner for us. They have helped to take our technology from the US to China and allowed us to build an eco-system of partners in China."

Puvvala sees his company's technology as vital for autonomous or self-driving vehicles. "We believe fully autonomous cars are not possible without having cars that connect with an infrastructure. Cars must notify the other vehicles that they are doing for a safer environment."

Savari and Leeches Technology are prime examples of opportunities created by technology disrupting an existing industry.

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