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Sokon Opens U.S. Headquarters in Silicon Valley

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【Summary】Sokon Industry Group has opened its U.S. headquarters in Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, the company reported Tuesday. It has also established a research center in Ann Arbor, Michigan to build electric cars.

Original Eric Walz    Jun 13, 2017 10:42 AM PT
Sokon Opens U.S. Headquarters in Silicon Valley

Sokon Industry Group has opened its U.S. headquarters in Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, the company reported Tuesday. It has also established a research center in Ann Arbor, Michigan to build electric cars.

The company was formerly known as Chongqing Sokon Auto Industry Group. Last September, the company created a U.S. subsidiary called SF Motors Inc, and announced that it had brought in Tesla co-founder and former CEO Martin Eberhard as a consultant. Eberhard had a much publicized falling out with Elon Musk and was removed as Tesla's CEO in 2008.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SF Motors is funded by the Chinese automaker and supplier Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, which designs, builds and operates smart manufacturing facilities in China and the United States.

SF Motors has three R&D centers in their global network, including Electric Powertrain & Intelligent Driving R&D Center in Santa Clara, CA with R&D office in Beijing, China and two Product Development R&D Centers in North America based in Ann Arbor, MI and Chongqing, China.

"As we expand our operations and R&D efforts, we hope to partner with like-minded corporations and recruit the top automotive and tech talent to ensure attainable, clean mobility for future generations," said John Zhang, CEO of SF Motors.

The Santa Clara office, which will focus on business operations and product planning, employs about 50 people and should have 150 by the year's end, according to the company. California has seen a recent influx of electric vehicle companies either from China or backed by Chinese investors including Faraday Future, LeEco, Lucid Motors, and NextEV.

However, none of these companies have succeeded in bringing an electric car to market.  Recently Faraday Future and LeEco have scaled back operations due to insufficient funding. Both companies are backed by the same Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting. Faraday, which is trying to build its first factory near Las Vegas, recently backed out of discussions with Vallejo officials about developing a second factory on Mare Island in Vallejo, California.

California's Attractive EV Market

However, for Chinese automakers, California still presents an attractive electric vehicle market, said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at the Kelley Blue Book auto information service. The companies are under pressure from their own government to develop electric cars as a way to curb China's notorious air pollution. EVs are popular in California, with many potential customers.

By the end of last year, the state had about 270,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids on its roads, which is roughly half of all electric cars sold in the United States. A California regulation also forces automakers to ensure that a portion of all vehicles they sell in the state produce zero tailpipe emissions, which includes Tesla's vehicles. The regulation, known as the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, should in time create a large market for electric vehicles in the state, Lindland said. That can be alluring for Chinese automakers looking for overseas markets.

"Keep in mind they are probably making these vehicles for other markets as well — particularly China, the biggest market of all," Lindland said. "You can make the numbers work better if you can tell an investor, ‘I'm not just going to sell in China, I'm going to sell in California, too.'"


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