Business / Auto China

Auto executives shifting to Internet companies

By Hao Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-28 08:15

The former vice-president of SAIC Motor Corp is reportedly joining the electric car division of Internet company LeEco.

The report has not yet been confirmed, but, should it be the case, it would continue the trend of top executives leaving well-known automakers to head the automobile divisions of Internet companies.

Auto Business Review reported last week that Zhang Hailiang, 46, who quit SAIC on March 11, will take up the position of China president at the electric supercar division of Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp. He managed the automaker's Sino-German joint venture Shanghai Volkswagen Co as president for four years from 2010, and was promoted to vice-president of SAIC in 2014.

The three vice-presidents of Leshi's supercar division are all from auto manufacturers: Lyu Zhengyu was the former general manager of Infiniti China; Gao Jingshen was the former vice-president of GACToyota; and Fu Zhenxing was the former powertrain system chief engineer of Shanghai E-Propulsion Auto Technology Co under SAIC.

Frank Sterzer, the former manufacturing director at Volkswagen Group China, joined Leshi supercars as senior director of manufacturing in April 2015.

Internet connected automobiles are becoming a key area of competition between auto manufacturers and Internet companies, said Li Bin, executive vice-director of the National Intelligent Transport Systems Center of Engineering and Technology, at a forum on March 20 in Zhejiang province.

Another Li Bin, the founder and chairman of the board of NextEV and auto information site, said the biggest change being made by the Internet is "in the relationship between the automakers and the customers" where there are "opportunities to redefine the interactive experience and restructure the automotive industrial chain".

Other top auto executives have already joined Internet companies. Martin Leach, the former CEO of Maserati joined NextEV, which specializes in designing and developing high-performance electric vehicles.

Harmony Futeng, which is backed by Tencent Holdings and cellphone maker Hon Hai Precision Industry, announced in February that Carsten Breitfeld, a former vice-president of BMW Group, had become CEO; and Daniel Kirchert, the former president of Dongfeng Infiniti, had became COO.

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