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Aston Martin and China’s LeEco to develop EV, Faraday Future potential technology client

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 18 February 2016

CHINA’S nurturing of its domestic electric vehicles (EV) markets has received a major boost with local consumer electronics group LeEco announcing today it was pairing up with Aston Martin to develop the British luxury sports car marque’s first EV.

Aston Martin and LeEco said they plan to develop an electric car based on the British automaker’s Rapide S model, before developing other potential electric vehicles, including for LeEco. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The electric car development platform by Aston and LeEco could also be used by Faraday Future, a start-up electric car firm backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the companies said.

Companies like Alphabet (owners of Google) and LeEco are developing automotive expertise because they want to broaden their reach beyond computers and cellphones into cars, while automakers want Internet connectivity to give drivers live traffic updates and infotainment.

“It brings Aston Martin’s electric car project forward,” Aston Martin Chief Executive Andy Palmer said at a news conference in Frankfurt, adding it would come to market in 2018, and be built in Gaydon, England.

On links with Faraday Future, he added: “Aston can offer expertise in ride, handling refinement and those sorts of things.”

LeEco, which offers branded content via the Internet, television set top boxes and smartphones, hopes to use its captive audience and celebrity endorsements to promote cars in future.

“In China we have around 300 million people who visit our website. We could advertise the Aston Martin for free. And we can use celebrities to promote our vehicle. This is the way we do business,” said Lei Ding, co-founder of LeEco’s auto division.

He previously held senior positions at joint ventures of Volkswagen and General Motors in China, said.

China’s government is promoting electric vehicles to cut the smog that frequently envelops its cities, which officials say helped sales quadruple last year and has turned China into the world’s biggest market, the Reuters report said.

An electric car joint venture of Taiwan’s Hon Hai, China’s Tencent and China Harmony Auto Holding said this month it was hiring former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld to lead it.

Harmony Futeng, launched last March, is one of several Chinese tech companies trying to develop “smart” and electric vehicles. These include Alibaba, Baidu and Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing, recently rebranded as LeEco.

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