BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese electric vehicle (EV) startup WM Motor Technology Co Ltd will receive a sizable injection from a group of investors led by Baidu Capital, a unit of Chinese internet search firm Baidu Inc, WM Motor’s founder and chief executive told Reuters.
Freeman Shen, who left Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd to establish WM Motor, said the investors also include Baidu Inc, Chinese venture capitalist Amiba Capital and U.S. trading firm Susquehanna International Group LLP (SIG).
Shen, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, declined to discuss the size of the investment, saying the automaker is likely to make an announcement as soon as in a few hours’ time.
Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters the figure was in the billions of yuan.
The automaker has raised about 12 billion yuan (£1.4 billion) during its three-year life, Shen said.
“The whole project probably needs about 20 billion yuan, so we have a bit more fundraising to do,” he said.
WM Motor is one of several largely Chinese-funded EV startups betting on the benefits of local production to compete with EV benchmark Tesla Inc, which has to import cars from the United States and pay a 25 percent import duty.
Tesla has discussed the need to set up local production by has yet to announce any plans.
Other Chinese EV startups include Future Mobility Corp Ltd with its Byton brand, and Singulato Motors. They expect demand for their cars due to a government push for so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs).
All-electric cars from WM Motor and others are not due to reach the market in China until next year. They aim to launch cars to rival Tesla’s first mass-market car, the Model 3 sedan.
WM Motor’s Shen said his company plans to start taking orders for its first vehicle, an all-electric battery sport-utility vehicle (SUV), coinciding with the Beijing auto show in April.
Small-scale production of the SUV is slated to start during the first quarter of next year at its assembly plant in the eastern China city of Wenzhou. The plant has an eventual annual capacity of 100,000 vehicles.
Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Christopher Cushing