Business / Auto China

Backed by Tencent, startup puts prominent names behind wheel

By Li Fusheng (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-02 14:40

Backed by Tencent, startup puts prominent names behind wheel
Two heavyweight auto executives have joined a little-known Chinese company aiming to produce electric cars, a harbinger of more integration between the IT and traditional auto industries.

Harmony Futeng Internet and Intelligent Electric Vehicle Co announced on Friday that Carsten Breitfeld will take the role of chief executive officer and Daniel Kirchert become chief operating officer of its "Internet Smart Electric Car" enterprise.

Breitfeld, former vice-president of BMW Group, head of BMW's i8 program, is a worldwide leading expert in the research and development field for electric cars. He spent 20 years working for the German premium brand.

Kirchert is famous in China's premium car segment. Before joining Harmony Futeng, the fluent Mandarin speaker was the head of Infiniti's China operations and president of Dongfeng Infiniti, the joint venture between Infiniti and Dongfeng Auto.

"It was a tough decision but a simple reason: I want to have an opportunity to start a company, and I think that has a lot to do with my personality," Kirchert said.

Harmony Futeng is an innovative investment platform co-founded by China Harmony New Energy Auto Holdings, Hon Hai Precision Industry and Tencent Holdings.

The Internet Smart Electric Car is the platform's core strategic program and an independent enterprise, Harmony Futeng said in a statement.

It aims to develop next-generation individual mobility solutions, creating a premium brand with Chinese roots and a global reach that will offer customers a smart, pleasant and eco-friendly driving experience, the statement said.

Tencent, China's leading integrated Internet service provider that owns the most patents in the country's Internet industry, will provide the Internet platform and other innovative solutions needed for the program.

Marco Hecker, Deloitte's China Auto Consulting Practice managing partner, said he sees opportunities in smart mobility for Chinese Internet giants such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, saying "they have the ability to integrate the strength in China's automotive and Internet industries, and no big automotive company has smart mobility solutions."

Cao Junbo, chief analyst at IResearch Consulting Group, said in the near future vehicles with intelligent driving systems could be as commonplace as smartphones.

"But the technology is still in its early stages," Cao told China Daily in an earlier interview.

IResearch analyst Zhou Xin said more venture capital and private equity firms would be attracted to projects that bring together automakers and high-tech companies.

Letv plans to unveil its first electric car at the Beijing auto show in April and is working to provide Aston Martin with infotainment systems.

Alibaba also announced a partnership with SAIC in early 2015 and Baidu and BMW tested their first autonomous driving system in December.

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