leeco car
LeEco's driverless car concept.  Courtesy of LeEco

LeEco Plans a Big Electric Car Factory in China

Aug 11, 2016

Chinese tech company LeEco plans to build a $1.8 billion electric car factory in China, the latest ambitious plan to churn out electric cars in the country.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the planned factory, located in eastern Zhejiang province, will be able to produce 400,000 cars per year, and will be part of a bigger $3 billion auto-related theme park.

LeEco has financed Faraday Future, a Los Angeles-based electric car startup that's building a factory in Nevada. The report says that Faraday Future and LeEco plan to work closely together on electric car manufacturing, research and development, and supply chain.

The move is the latest example of an aggressive plan to build electric cars in China, while tapping into car design and technology developed in the U.S.

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Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Chinese auto parts company Wanxiang plans to build a $375 million factory in Hangzhou, China that could make as many as 50,000 electric cars per year.

Wanxiang owns California-based Karma Automotive, which is the reincarnated Fisker Automotive, and plans to use the Chinese factory to make Karma cars, including a revived two-door Atlantic. Years ago that car was intended to be made in Delaware using a loan from the U.S. government.

Other companies with U.S. headquarters and Chinese investors include Atieva and NextEV. A company called Xindayang is using battery tech from Boston Power (formerly based in Boston) to make electric cars, and sold about 32,000 electric cars last year.

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Other companies are focused solely on the growing electric car market in China and are already selling increasing volumes of low cost vehicles. BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffett, sold 61,722 electric cars last year, almost all of them in China.

The Chinese government has been offering major support to Chinese electric car companies, as well as non-traditional auto makers. That partly explains the interest from Chinese tech and Internet companies like LeEco.

At the same time, tech companies all over the world are increasingly interested in getting into connected, smart and someday autonomous cars. Google and Apple have been investing heavily in auto tech.

LeEco sells millions of smart TVs in China every year. Last year it earned $86 million on $2 billion in sales. Now the company wants to get into new markets and has moved into driverless cars, smartphones, cloud computing, online music, sports streaming, and original programming.

Many of these electric car ambitions have been encouraged by the success of Tesla (tsla), the 13-year-old electric car company run by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. Tesla is building a large battery factory outside of Reno, Nev., and plans to make 500,000 electric cars per year by 2018, up from its about 50,000 cars shipped last year.

To date, Tesla has appeared to struggle in China, partly thanks to a lack of charging infrastructure in the country, but also due to the onerous regulations that face foreign companies. However, Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Tesla has signed an non-binding agreement with Shanghai government-owned Jinqiao Group to make cars in China .

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