April 04, 2019 12:49
Chinese electric vehicle maker Future Mobility plans to set up operations in Korea at GM Korea's former plant in Gunsan, which was shut down last year.
Future Mobility is part of the MS Consortium, which signed a deal last month to acquire the Gunsan plant, according to an industry insider on Wednesday.
The consortium is led by Korean parts maker MS Autotech, but Future Mobility provides the capital. It will invest W200 billion in the plant to assemble 50,000 EVs annually with parts from China starting in 2021 (US$1=W1,135). Large Korean companies are also considering investments.
Future Mobility was created in 2016 by Chinese Internet giant Tencent and Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn to create premium EVs. They scouted former executives from BMW, Nissan and Tesla and established a brand called Byton, which unveiled the M-Byte, an all-electric battery-powered SUV concept car, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year.
The SUV can travel up to 520 km on a single charge and is capable of autonomous driving even on freeways. It will first go on sale in China, the U.S. and Europe in 2020 and possibly in Korea in 2021.
Korean automakers are bracing for the entry of more rivals. Recently China's Songuo Motors set up a joint venture with Korean EV maker SNK Motors and aims to build a plant in Gunsan capable of rolling out 100,000 EVs a year.
And last year China's largest EV maker Chery Automobile joined hands with Korea's Nanos to build a W120-billion plant nearby capable of rolling out 50,000 EVs annually starting in 2021.
One industry insider said, "If Chinese manufacturers enter Korea, the competitive landscape here will change completely. Rather than rejoicing at the benefits of job creation, I'm worried that Chinese companies will take over the auto industry here."
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