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Chinese investors buy Japanese luxury EV sports car maker
Bloomberg | 2017/7/18

China's drive to dominate the electric-vehicle market has claimed another overseas target.
     
When Japanese EV startup GLM Co. needed more funds to put its premium sports car into production, domestic backers couldn't muster the financing.
     
The search for an investor ended last week when a Hong Kong-based investment company called O Luxe Holdings agreed to purchase GLM for $113 million (767 million yuan).

O Luxe will fund the deal by issuing new shares to stockholders, which include Chinese TV maker TCL Corp. 

With the backing of its new owner, GLM gets access to global money for r&d, CEO Hiroyasu Koma said in an interview at his Kyoto headquarters.
     
¡°Electric vehicles are catching on, and China is the leader,¡± Koma said. ¡°But Japanese technology will maintain an edge for the next five years and we want to take a share of the market.¡±
     
Beijing has paid generous subsidies for EVs and Chinese companies are buying foreign battery and EV makers such as GLM to upgrade their technology.
     
In a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, O Luxe said the acquisition represents an opportunity to tap into the fast-growing EV industry.


Minibus
Under its new owner, GLM will start production of the G4 ultraluxury sports car in the second half of 2019. 

The car has a planned price tag of 2.4 million yuan, and the company expects to sell a total of 1,000 units, according to Koma. 

There are also plans, he said, to introduce an electric minibus and a seven-seat family car, adapting the G4¡¯s powertrain and other key electrical components.
     
GLM was founded in 2010 by seven engineers who defected from Toyota Motor Corp. and other Japanese automakers. Its first model was a lightweight two-door sports car called the Tommykaira ZZ; that car debuted in Japan in 2014 for 480,000 yuan. 

Fewer than 100 have sold, according to the company.
     
GLM will count on vehicle sales to keep the business going in the short term. In the long run, Koma said the emphasis will shift toward supplying other carmakers with engineering expertise and components such as chassis platforms, power systems and control units. The company is close to signing several contracts to supply carmakers in China, he said, without naming the firms.

Global investments
The deal for GLM follows a series of global EV investments by Chinese companies. 

In the last five years, Wanxiang Group bought the Karma electric-car business operated by U.S. startup Fisker Automotive, along with Karma¡¯s battery supplier, A123 Systems. 

Meanwhile, Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital is reportedly close to a deal to buy a battery venture owned by Nissan Motor Co.
     
China already accounts for 40 percent of global EV sales, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency. Government support has triggered a wave of startups and venture-capital money seeking to back the next Tesla. Two hundred Chinese companies are developing an estimated 4,000 EV models.
     
GLM¡¯s Koma said the company plans to supply some of those EV makers with frames that can be adapted for use in everything from expensive sports cars to mass-market compacts.
     
¡°Chinese startups may seem to be our competitors in terms of finished cars, but we view them also as potential customers for our engineering platforms,¡± he said. ¡°We want to become the Google of the auto industry, by providing the operating system for car manufacturing.¡±

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