Aston Martin links itself to Faraday Future and China's LeEco

RapidE Image copyright Aston Martin
Image caption The RapidE electric car already had financial support from the private bank ChinaEquity

British automaker Aston Martin has announced a tie-up with LeEco, the Chinese backer of the electric car start-up Faraday Future.

The firms said the partnership was designed to develop a production version of Aston Martin's RapidE concept vehicle.

A prototype edition of the electric sports saloon was unveiled in October.

The companies said there was also the "potential" for their joint venture to team with Faraday to make other cars.

The signing was announced at a news conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

'Questionable tie-up'

Aston Martin has more than a century's experience of making cars, but is relatively small company compared to Ford, Nissan and others working on electric vehicles.

Faraday has announced plans to build a factory near Las Vegas and showed off a stationary concept vehicle of its own in January, but has yet to reveal details of the models it intends to sell to the public.

One industry watcher had doubts about the deal.

"The tie-up with LeEco builds on the earlier cooperation between the two firms and may help speed up development of electric vehicles for both firms," said Professor David Bailey from Aston Business School.

"The potential tie-up with Faraday Future seems much more questionable, though, as it's not actually clear that Faraday can deliver.

"There's a lot of uncertainty for example over the firm's proposed new plant in Nevada, with the state appearing to want $70m in security from the firm in return for state investment.

"And while Faraday unveiled a 'concept' car at the recent CES tech show, it has yet to unveil a functioning prototype."

Electric China

Image copyright Aston Martin
Image caption Aston Martin and LeEco announced their tie-up in Germany

China's government has said that it wants five million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020.

It is trying to encourage drivers to buy them by offering incentives, such as a recently announced exemption from a law that states other types of vehicle can only be driven on Beijing's roads six days a week.

This gives LeEco an incentive to invest in the business. It is currently best known for its on-demand LeTV television service and Le smartphones.

The joint venture intends to bring the RapidE to market by 2018 using internet capabilities developed by the Chinese firm.

Aston Martin and LeEco said they intend to follow up with other "next-generation connected electric vehicles" involving Faraday before the end of the decade.

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