Chinese electric vehicle startup WM Motor I just made an oversized investment to fuel growth in a competitive landscape increasingly coveted by overseas rival Tesla. The five-year-old company raised 10 billion yuan ($ 1.47 billion) in a Series D round announced Tuesday to be paid for research and development, branding, marketing, and channel expansion .
WM Motor, supported by Baidu and Tencent, is one of the most highly funded EV startups in China alongside NIO, Xpeng, and Li Auto, all of which went public in New York. With the latest capital increase, WM Motor could prepare for an IPO. As Bloomberg's sources said in July, the company was already weighing a Nasdaq-style listing on China's STAR board earlier this year.
Days before the financial news, WM Motor introduced its key partners and suppliers: Qualcomm Snapdragon's cockpit chips will enhance the startup's experience in the cabin. Baidu's Apollo autonomous driving system enables World Cup vehicles to park themselves. Unisplendour, which is rooted in the Chinese Tsinghua University, will take care of the hardware side of autonomous driving. and finally, integrated circuit company Sino IC Leasing will work on "vehicle connectivity" for WM Motor, whatever that term includes.
It's not uncommon for the new generation of EV manufacturers to seek outside partnerships due to their limited manufacturing experience. WM Motor's rival Xpeng is similarly partnering with Blackberry, Desay EV, and Nvidia to deliver its smart electric vehicles.
WM Motor was founded by automotive veteran Freeman Shen, who previously held senior positions at Volvo, Fiat and Geely in China.
The startup recently announced an ambitious plan over the next three to five years to dedicate 20 billion yuan ($ 2.95 billion) and 3,000 engineers to work on 5G smart cockpits, level 4 driving, and other futuristic car technologies . That's a big part of the startup's total increase, which is estimated at $ 3 billion based on Crunchbase data and the latest funding figure.
Regional governments are often seen as the roots for companies involved in China's strategic industries such as semiconductors and electric cars. For example, the latest round of WM Motor is being led by a state investment platform and state car maker SAIC Motor, both of which are based in Shanghai, where the startup's headquarters are located. The city is also home to Tesla's Gigafactory, where the American giant produces vehicles made in China.
In July, the Chinese EV upstart delivered its 30,000th EX5 SUV vehicle, which costs around $ 22,000 with government grants and features in-car video streaming and air purification. The company claimed that parents of young children make up nearly 70% of its customers.