Stellantis weighs tie-up with EV maker Leapmotor to expand in China, report says

Stellantis weighs tie-up with EV maker Leapmotor to expand in China, report says

Automotive News Europe — 2023-08-23

Automotive Industry

Stellantis is considering a tie-up with a Chinese electric vehicle company as Europe’s second-largest automaker by sales seeks to bolster its presence in the world’s biggest auto market, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The parent company of Chrysler, Ram, Jeep and several global brands has explored potentially working with Chinese EV makers such as Zhejiang Leapmotor Technologies, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

Following in the footsteps of its rivals, Stellantis is weighing options such as investing in a local EV automaker and a business partnership that would help it grow in China, the people said. Considerations are ongoing and no final decisions have been made, the people said.

Other global automakers including Volkswagen Group have also expressed interest in a potential tie-up with Leapmotor. Reuters reported VW's talks with Leapmotor earlier this month.

Spokespeople for Stellantis and Volkswagen declined to comment, while a Leapmotor representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A partnership would fit with the “asset-light” strategy in China that Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has floated, after the company halted production in its only Jeep plant in China last year and weighed ending all carmaking in the country.

Tavares said in July he is happy with his decision to downsize, saying rivals Volkswagen and General Motors are “under pressure” in China as vehicle producers slash prices.

Stellantis still has a joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group to sell Peugeot and Citroën cars in China. The incoming CFO of the automaking giant, formed from the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Group, said in July that figuring out China is key because of the country’s importance in the shift to EVs.

Global automakers have been eyeing the Chinese EV market as they seek to expand in the world’s second-largest economy.

VW last month said it plans to invest $700 million in Xpeng to jointly develop electric vehicles in China.