Chinese Electric Vehicle Makers Swarm Into California, Chasing Tesla

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Patrick    Sep 13, 2016 11:52 AM PT
Chinese Electric Vehicle Makers Swarm Into California, Chasing Tesla
Michael Dunne

How big, how fast, how dangerous?

Five highly ambitious Chinese automakers are building stealthy, strategic bases in California. Their objective: Hunt down technology and talented engineers to produce the world's most advanced electric vehicles.

Unusually, only one of the five is state-backed, with four bankrolled by Chinese billionaires.

So young are these Chinese upstarts that establishing who they are and what they do is something like describing newborns in the hospital nursery. Sometimes all you can do is note the most prominent features.

Here we go:

  1. - Faraday Future. Formed in 2014. Based in Gardena, California. Nevada factory coming in 2018. Leadershipteam all ex-Tesla executives. Funded by Le Eco, China'sNetflix NFLX +3.87%. Ties to Aston Martin.

  2. - BYD . Stands for Build Your Dreams. China's leading electric vehicle maker. Funded by billionaire Wang ChuanfuBerkshire Hathaway BRK.B +% a 9% shareholder.

  3. - NextEV. Started with 10 people in 2015, now nearing 1,000. Bases in Shanghai, Munich and San Jose. Founded by Chinese Internet billionaire, Bitauto creator, William Li. Sequoia Capital and Hillhouse Capital money, too. Hired Cisco phenom Padmasree Warrior to lead U.S. operations.

  4. - Karma Automotive. Re-incarnated Fisker Automotive. Bought out of bankruptcy in 2014 for $149 million by China's Wanxiang Group. Operates from Costa Mesa. Coming soon: Plant in Moreno Valley.

  5. - Atieva. Beijing Automotive, partners with Mercedes and Hyundai in China, holds 25%. Faraday owner Jia Yueting owns shares, too. Engineers recruited from Stanford are writing world-class Atieva offices in Menlo Park. Website header: "To re-imagine the future, we're re-writing the rules."

And, wait, here comes a brand new entrant called Future Mobility. Announced just this week, initial capital comes from Ten Cent and Foxconn, China's Internet and manufacturing powerhouses. How many weeks before Future Mobility sets up its own California lair, too?

Young? Yes. A little naïve? Maybe. But zealously active. Teams of engineers right now are hustling to beat tight workplan deadlines at new facilities in Costa Mesa, Gardena, Los Angeles, San Jose and Palo Alto. Already they've hired top talent away from Tesla, Google, and BMW.

Auto industry incumbents, vaguely aware of the Chinese intruders, feel a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. How serious are these companies and what are their intentions. Five years out, will they still be around?

"We won't be coming to America with exports the way the Japanese and Koreans did it," an engineer from NextEV told me at an autonomous driving conference in San Jose last month. "Too much China brand baggage."

resource from: Forbes

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