There has been a lot of hand-wringing lately about the Chinese EV market, which took a nosedive after the government announced it was ending incentives for short-range electric cars. But no matter how you slice it, China is the biggest EV market in the world and everyone wants a piece of the action.
Until recently, the only presence Fiat Chrysler has had in China is with its Jeep-branded vehicles. Maybe plug-in hybrid versions of those rugged, off-road capable vehicles are coming, but they won’t qualify for the incentives currently offered by the government. To get itself into the EV game in China, Fiat announced a new partnership with Foxconn, the giant Taiwanese electronics company that manufacturers smartphones and laptop computers for Apple and many other companies.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, Fiat Chrysler will own 50% of the new venture while Foxconn will own no more than 40%. Who will own the balance is unclear at this time. Apparently the two companies have been discussing the new business arrangement for 7 months or more but no final contract has been signed. That is supposed to happen sometime in the first quarter of this year.
“Our initial plan is to manufacture in China for the local market first,” with exports possible later, Foxconn said in a statement. The joint venture will also focus on the “internet of vehicles” but what that means is not exactly clear. “Fiat Chrysler will be in charge of the carmaking, while Foxconn supports the electronics know-how including hardware and software,” a sources tells Nikkei.
The new vehicles will not be old Chrysler 200 sedans with a battery pack shoved into the trunk. TechCrunch says they will be designed and built from the ground up and not the result of a project to electrify any of the vehicles in FCA’s current portfolio. There is no mention of whether the technology for the Chinese made cars might be transferred to Fiat’s new European partner PSA at some point.
Foxconn has seen a decline in its smartphone business recently and is looking for new markets to conquer. During an earnings briefing last June, Foxconn chairman Young Liu said the company will focus on three key areas to drive future growth — electric cars, digital medicine, and advanced robotics. He believes the move into electric vehicles could account for 10% of the company’s overall sales in the future, according to The Verge.
Nikkei says the operation of Foxconn’s part of the new business venture will be handled primarily by two subsidiaries — FIT Hon Teng, which makes automobile components, and FIH Mobile, Foxconn’s Android smartphone assembly division. FIH Mobile will also focus on software solutions for automotive systems in electric cars, according to the company.
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