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Li Shufu's sky-high ambitions for Geely as mobility provider
Yang Jian | 2018/11/9

SHANGHAI -- Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, until recently seemed interested only in building a business empire in the automotive world.

But that turned out to be a false impression. 

Li¡¯s new mission is to expand Geely¡¯s reach beyond the auto industry to provide mobility services in areas few others would dream of. 

Last week, at the biannual international air show in the south China city of Zhuhai, Geely struck a partnership deal with China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., a state-owned developer of spaceships, satellites and missiles. 

The two partners want to develop high-speed trains using magnetic suspension technology to travel in a near-vacuum tube at a speed of more than 1,000 kilometers an hour (621 mph). 

It also plans to launch low-orbit satellites with the goal of building ¡°a three-dimensional digital transport network for maritime, land and air transportation,¡± Geely said in a statement after signing the agreement with China Aerospace Science and Industry.

Such plans sound futuristic. But when the mastermind is Li Shufu, they should not be dismissed as wild dreams.

Li has proved to be an effective and visionary leader in the auto industry. 

He has achieved stunning business success in transforming Geely from a little-known motorcycle manufacturer into the largest and most profitable Chinese carmaker.
Geely, which didn¡¯t start producing cars until 1997, is now the third-largest passenger vehicle maker in China, behind only Volkswagen Group and General Motors. The company¡¯s first-half net profit surged 54 percent to 6.7 billion yuan ($967 million).

Li has engineered an impressive turnaround at Volvo Cars after buying the Swedish brand from Ford Motor Co. in 2010. 

He is now making solid progress in reviving two venerable U.K. brands acquired over the past few years -- London Taxi and Lotus, an engineering and sports car specialist. 

Moreover, with Li at the helm, Geely has taken a series of steps to strengthen its role as a mobility service provider.

It bought flying-car developer Terrafugia in 2017 and the Woburn, Mass., company is set to deliver its first product, a two-seat small aircraft, in the U.S. next year. 

In June, Geely formed a three-way partnership with Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings and state-owned railway transport operator China Railway Corp. to provide Internet-based services such as ride-hailing for rail passengers.

And last month, Geely established a joint venture with Daimler to provide ride-hailing services in China after Li acquired a 9.69 percent stake in the German luxury carmaker. 

Li is a highly accomplished leader as well as a skillful deal-maker in the auto industry. 

It will be intriguing to see what steps he takes next to lead Geely toward a lofty goal of becoming a digital transport service provider across multiple industries.

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