CCTV News: Bill Russo Discusses China’s Auto Market and New Energy Vehicles

China Central Television China 24 Program,, April 25, 2016

 

China 24 04-26-2016 03:15 - CCTV News - CCTV.com English Safari, Today at 10.38.42 AM

 

A link to Bill Russo’s appearance on CCTV’s China 24 program.  Topics discussed included New Energy Vehicles, China’s auto market outlook, and vehicle exports.  Beijing Auto Show story begins at 8:25, and Mr. Russo’s appearance starts at 11:42.

Click here to watch the program at CCTV.com

 

 

The Race to Produce China’s Tesla

Bloomberg News, April 22, 2016

 
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William Li isn’t your typical, boundlessly optimistic Chinese tech entrepreneur. Yes, the founder of startup NextEV Inc. has big plans to disrupt China’s electric car market, the financial backing of venture capital powerhouses Sequoia Capital and Hillhouse Capital and considers Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk an inspiration.

That said, he rates his chance of succeeding in China’s fast-moving car market at a whopping 5 percent. He also thinks most of the new business models for electric cars being bandied about by tech companies will end up in the junk yard.

“There’s an exponential gulf between creating a concept car and mass production, and then to actually sell them,” Li said. “Tesla has broken a lot of new ground and inspired a raft of Internet companies to follow, but most have no idea what they’re facing.”

Such hard-nosed realism is probably wise. As global auto executives gather for the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, a torrent of money is pouring into the nation’s alternative energy vehicle market, which includes electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars. In a country with some of the worst urban air pollution on the planet and a rapidly urbanizing populace, the market’s upside potential seems big to conventional car companies and tech startups jumping in.

The Chinese government is promoting what it considers a strategic industry with big subsidies for companies and consumers. It wants new energy vehicle sales to top 3 million units a year by 2025, versus 330,000 in 2015. Premier Li Keqiang in February urged local government and industry players to speed up construction of charging facilities to accommodate 5 million electric vehicles by 2020.

Right now, the electric car business is dominated by BYD Co., a Shenzhen-based automaker, 9-percent owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., that has a 18 percent share of China’s new energy vehicle market. At the Beijing show, BYD will be touting its new entry-level sports-utility vehicle called The Yuan, as in the 13th-century Chinese dynasty, that starts from 209,800 yuan ($32,368) for the hybrid version.

Tesla is a player, too, in China, where it sells its Model S and Model X, though the Palo Alto, California-based electric carmaker would like to be a far bigger one. For the first three quarters of 2015, the company sold 3,025 vehicles in China, which compares to 11,477 units of delivery by BYD. The Chinese company, also sells its electrics in U.S., Germany and Japan and surpassed Tesla in May to become the world’s biggest maker of new energy vehicles last year.

The success of Tesla in the U.S. and the development of driver-less car technologies by Apple and Google are also attracting all manner of technology companies into the Chinese auto market, the world’s biggest. Some envision cars developing into “mobility service platforms,” in which passengers receive data and services in addition to being moved from point A to B.

That could play to the strengths of technology companies and the huge and growing Chinese auto market could be the perfect laboratory in which to experiment with new services and business models, according to Bill Russo, managing director at Shanghai-based auto consultant Gao Feng Advisory.

Russo compares today’s autos to the mobile phones of a decade ago, when apps started to gain in popularity. “As cars become mobility service platforms, the technology on board will become more sophisticated,” he says. Technology companies could contract out auto production to make vehicles, but then earn recurring revenue by providing car owners with data products and Internet services. “Apple makes money not just on the device, but on all the services that flow through it,” he said.

It’s definitely a vision in search of details, but plenty of technology companies are jumping into the fray. Electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology, Internet service portal Tencent and China Harmony New Energy Auto have set up a joint venture to build alternative energy cars. The partnership is designed to leverage different strengths: Foxconn’s component supply chain, Tencent’s infotainment and telematics systems that could improve vehicle’s connectivity and Harmony Auto’s after-sales network for electric vehicles. In January, Daniel Kirchert, head of Infiniti in China, joined the alliance.

Chinese tech billionaire Jia Yueting also has automotive ambitions. The chairman and founder of Le Holdings Co., which makes Web-enabled televisions and smartphones and offers cloud and e-commerce services, is a major investor in Los Angeles-based Faraday Future, which is building a 900-acre factory near Las Vegas, Nevada. LeEco, which has developed its own electric vehicles, is preparing to apply for a production license in China and also plans to manufacture its cars overseas.

Given all the new entrants, it is easy to understand why NextEV founder Li is wary of the competition, even with financial backers like Sequoia. Li has hired former Cisco Systems Inc. Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior to lead development and U.S. operations and has inked a deal to outsource production to Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co.

“They’re realistic, they’re seasoned, smart people with a lot of money and they’re unafraid of the challenge,” Michael Dunne, head of strategy and investment advisory firm Dunne Automotive Ltd., said of NextEV. “In fact, they seem to be embracing it.”

Li’s early life didn’t fit the profile of a tech entrepreneur. He spent his early years herding cattle in a mountain village in Anhui province, where he grew up with his grandparents. A talented student, he left the rural China to attend the prestigious Peking University, where he earned a degree in social sciences while supporting himself with part-time work like selling office supplies to Apple Inc.

Before starting NextEV, Li co-founded and built Bitauto Holdings Ltd. into the country’s biggest provider of online car pricing data for dealers. The company went public in New York in 2010. Li and Bitauto have invested in more than 40 companies in China including used-car business, financing services and car-sharing platform such as Didapinche.

Li says NextEV is an opportunity to rethink the electric car as not just a transportation vehicle but as a digital platform.

“Traditional auto manufacturers treat the car as 95 percent transportation tool,” Li said. “Tesla’s cars have perhaps 20 percent to 30 percent content that are not related to transportation,” he said referring to such things as mobile connectivity and touchscreens that access car maintenance services.  “My aim is to boost that to more than 50 percent.”

NextEV has produced an electric Formula E series racer, but hasn’t yet disclosed its plans for launching an electric car aimed at the consumer market. Meantime, the race is engaged by a gaggle of tech companies to prove they can be players in Chinese autos.

Click here to read the article at www.bloomberg.com

Bill Russo Hosts “Building a Disruption-Ready Organization” Event

Shanghai, China, March 31, 2016

Building a Disruption-Ready Organization

2016 Russell Reynolds Associates Auto Show Event

The traditional automotive industry, where technology innovation has primarily been focused on powertrain and safety systems, must now contend with new forms of mobility services that are revolutionizing mobility needs.  The conventional hardware-centric business model is being superseded by an emerging connected, on-demand, and personalized mobility services business model.  Many Russell Reynolds Associates’ clients are top industry players contending intersection of the Automotive and Internet industries where innovations is rapidly shaping the future of mobility.

This event was a collaboration between Russell Reynolds Associates and  Gao Feng Advisory Company (www.gaofengadv.com), a pre-eminent strategy and management consulting firm with roots in China.  Gao Feng has been helping clients solve their toughest business and management issues — issues that arise in the current fast-changing, complicated and ambiguous operating environment. The topic of this session is one of the most challenging issues facing the automotive industry, and China is rapidly becoming the incubator for disruptive business model innovations focused on mobility.  However, most firms are at a loss about where to find the best talent to drive their disruptive ideas on innovation and transformation.

The discussion was focused on the future of mobility in China, and the implications for leaders who must cope with the disruptions in the China market.  The event was held on 31 March 2016 in Shanghai China.  This event series is designed to bring senior executive representatives of the China Automotive industry together to hear from and interact directly with the leaders in disruptive innovation and mobility transformation.

Topics for discussion:

  • Defining the disruption in the China context – What are the disruptive trends in today’s mobility world?
  • Helicopter view of the competitive ecosystem – What is the chaotic landscape look like and how will it evolve?
  • How should incumbents respond? Disrupting or being disrupted? – What are the internal capabilities to build? How to work with local start-ups?
  • China for the world – Will China lead to world’s development and innovation in Connected Mobility?

 

Mr. John Larsen, Director, Smart Mobility, Ford Motor Company Asia Pacific

Dr. Markus Seidel, Vice President, BMW Group Technology Office China

Ms. Christina Xie, Senior Director, Strategy Department, Didi Chuxing

Mr. Jack Cheng, Co-Founder, Executive VP, NextEV

Mr. Kevin Harris, Co-Founder, Russell Reynolds Associates

 

Moderated by:

Mr. Bill Russo, Managing Director and Automotive Practice Leader, Gao Feng Advisory Company

Building a Disruption Ready Organization vF Microsoft PowerPoint, Today at 10.29.32 AM

China a lifeline for EV makers

Automotive News, March 14, 2016

New-energy push bolsters investment

by Alysha Webb

In 2013, Mike McQuary, CEO of Wheego Electric Cars, was in a bind. The maker of small electric vehicles needed expansion funds.

But with high-profile electrified vehicle makers like Fisker and Coda struggling, the appetite in the U.S. for investing in electrified vehicle makers was slight.

Since he was visiting China regularly to work with suppliers, McQuary made an appointment with GSR Ventures, a venture capital company based in Beijing. It was a good move. GSR now helps fund Wheego.

“They have a long-term view of the new-energy sector and EVs in particular,” McQuary says of his Chinese investor.

Despite early optimism in the U.S., the market for EVs and the technology that goes into them never has really taken off. In 2015, U.S. sales of plug-in hybrids and EVs actually dropped 5.2 percent to 116,099 units, according to Inside EVs.

Government support for the sector has remained tepid. That has left companies that bet on steady growth in demand for electrified vehicles struggling to survive.

In China, however, the government remains committed to growing plug-in hybrid and EV production and sales. That has given Chinese investors and Chinese companies the confidence to sink millions of dollars into U.S. companies with electrification technology.

China a lifeline for EV makers Mail, Today at 10.37.31 AM

FDG Electric Vehicles, a Chinese company, built a 2.6 million-square-foot plant in China to produce medium-duty electric vans through its joint venture with Smith Electric Vehicles. The JV, called Prevok, plans to launch the vans in the U.S. this year.

Photo credit: PREVOK PHOTOS

Focus on China
Often, Chinese investors want to focus on the China market.

GSR was “happy to invest in us as long as we turned our eyes to China,” McQuary says.

Though it has dealers and sales in the U.S., the Atlanta-based company now focuses on selling its small EVs — used by municipal governments, at airports and as delivery vehicles — in China.

He can’t discuss sales volume or where the vehicles are manufactured, McQuary says. But the company is still in business, which it might not have been without the Chinese investment.

“China seemed like a much bigger chance for Wheego to be a big success,” he says. “The subsidies they offer over there, and the government support and pressure for EVs to be successful, really trumps what they are doing in the U.S.”

Smith Electric Vehicles also found a savior in China. The Kansas City, Mo.-based company manufactures medium-duty, commercial EVs. It sold around 800 EVs in the United States from 2010 to 2014 to customers including DHL and Coca-Cola, but it couldn’t make money at such low volumes.

It needed cash and a bigger market so it could scale up. That came from Hong Kong-listed FDG Electric Vehicles, a Chinese company with two EV manufacturing plants in China as well as battery production and r&d operations. Smith, whose electric vans have logged millions of miles on U.S. roads, could provide added EV manufacturing expertise.

The Chinese company “had the resources, the money, the engineers [and] the government support, but they had no practical working knowledge” of how to produce an EV, says Bryan Hansel, former CEO of Smith.

China-U.S. joint venture
In 2014, FDG invested some $20 million directly in Smith, says Hansel. Then in May 2015, it invested another $15 million to form a joint venture, named Prevok. Hansel is Prevok’s CEO.

The JV is producing a jointly designed, medium-duty electric van at a 2.6 million-square-foot plant in the east China high-tech hub of Hangzhou. Prevok plans to launch the van in the U.S. this year.

It will be imported initially, moving to local production as volume increases, Hansel says. Demand eventually will be global, he predicts.

Smith likely would not have had the luxury of such an undertaking if it worked with U.S. investors, Hansel says. With FDG, “they said, “Get started guys, and have fun.'”

The Chinese government’s consistent financial support and policy push for development and sale of plug-in EVs underpins Chinese investors’ longer-term view.

China has declared that it will have 5 million “new-energy” vehicles — a category including battery-powered EVs, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell EVs — on the road by 2020. In practice, the recent focus has been on battery-powered EVs.

“In China, I went from a period of no interest to one of a lot of interest.”KY Chan
CEO, Protean Electric

China’s central and local governments have combined to offer consumers subsidies that can surpass the equivalent of $16,000 per vehicle.

That is more than half the price of the best-selling plug-in hybrid EV in China, the BYD Qin PHEV, which starts at the equivalent of $31,192. The best-selling pure EV in China, the Kandi Panda, costs $23,139, says Yale Zhang, managing director of consultancy Automotive Foresight in Shanghai.

In the U.S., federal subsidies top off at $7,500. Some states offer additional subsidies.

The Chinese government’s largesse is not bottomless, however. Subsides for electric passenger vehicle purchases are scheduled to decrease, ending in 2021.

And despite subsidies, Chinese drivers have not enthusiastically embraced EVs. The lack of charging stations is one reason.

Sales of EVs did surge in 2015, however, more than quadrupling to 331,092 vehicles.

The growth in sales was largely due to local government purchases, says Zhang.

The central government in Beijing ordered Chinese cities to meet new-energy vehicle purchase targets, he says. That caused a surge in production and sales. The percentage of new-energy vehicle sales accounted for by commercial vehicles rose to 45.5 percent in 2015 from 38.4 percent in 2014, according to Automotive Foresight.

Also, Beijing in February ordered local governments to make 50 percent of all new fleet vehicle purchases new-energy vehicles, up from a 30 percent mandate.

There are other possible policy boosts for passenger EV sales. On-demand ride-hailing companies are growing quickly in China. Didi Kuaidi, China’s largest, completed 1.43 billion rides in 2015.

At some point, Beijing will require those companies to use EVs, predicts Bill Russo, a managing partner at Gao Feng Advisory Co. in Shanghai.

“If you want a higher penetration and market share of electrification, you can require these on-demand companies to electrify their fleets,” he says. “I can see a quick acceleration of electrification.”

47-mpg target
Regardless of demand, automakers in China will need to produce EVs to meet fleet fuel economy mandates, which call for 5 liters of fuel consumed per 100 kilometers driven, or 47 mpg, by 2020.

KY Chan, CEO of Protean Electric Inc., says that is one reason he found a lot of interest in China for his company’s in-wheel electric-drive systems. Protean, which has offices in Troy, Mich., the U.K. and Shanghai, has investors including GSR and Jiangsu New Times Holding Group, located in eastern China.

“No matter what, even if they are losing money [producing EVs], the OEMs will have to produce a number of new-energy vehicles in order to lower the overall [fuel economy] below 5 liters,” Chan says.

The central government’s EV push has made China a fertile market for fundraising. “The amount of resources flowing into [the EV sector] is just unimaginable,” he says. “In China, I went from a period of no interest to one of a lot of interest.”

Chan figures Chinese investors have a stronger stomach for the cash burn rate of a startup like Protean. It has talked to U.S. companies about being acquired, but “we would become a burden to their balance sheet,” he says.

Perhaps the highest-profile Chinese investment in U.S. electrification companies is Wanxiang’s acquisitions of battery-maker A123 Systems and luxury plug-in hybrid manufacturer Fisker Automotive, renamed Karma Automotive.

Privately owned Wanxiang Group Corp., one of China’s largest automotive suppliers, comes from a very traditional background; it got its start producing driveshafts and roller bearings.

Why did it acquire the two U.S. companies?

“China is committed to producing more and more electric vehicles,” says Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang America Corp. “Wanxiang wants to participate in that growth, and we saw an opportunity to do so by acquiring A123 and Fisker.”

If Wanxiang hadn’t acquired Waltham, Mass.-based A123 in 2013, says CEO Jason Forcier, “the technology would have been sold off to the highest bidder.”

Instead, Chinese ownership enabled A123 to double its capacity, and the company is generating positive cash flow, Forcier says.

A123 is focusing on low-voltage batteries and working with all the major European automakers on 48-volt systems. But China still accounts for a big chunk of the battery-maker’s growth.

“That speaks to the focus of the Chinese government to incentivize these vehicles,” says Forcier. “We haven’t seen that in the U.S.”

“A lot of trust’
Wanxiang acquired A123 customer Fisker, whose problems imperiled A123, in 2014, paying $149.2 million. Wanxiang beat out Hong Kong investor Richard Li, who also was bidding for the electric automaker. The now-Karma Automotive is trying to revive itself from a headquarters in Southern California.

Karma sees the most opportunity in China, which is the world’s largest luxury car market. But it will sell cars in the U.S., as well, says Chief Marketing Officer Jim Taylor.

That kind of U.S. presence is important. Chinese consumers know their country’s long history of shoddy and copied products. Plus, China’s early EV efforts often focused on low price rather than high quality.

“You need to bring in technology that has been certified as non-Chinese,” Gao Feng’s Russo says.

Even in luxury-hungry China, Karma could be a tough sell. “Luxury [EVs] do not have strong potential, because rich people need the premium car’s brand first,” Automotive Foresight’s Zhang says.

But Chinese investors don’t mind taking “long bets” on their investments, Taylor says.

Wanxiang Chairman Lu Guanqiu “has put a lot of trust in our executive team,” he says. “If we were American-owned, that rope would be a lot shorter.”

Click here to read this article at Automotive News

China shifts gears to drive electric car development

The Financial Times, February 25, 2016

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China’s efforts to take the lead in electric vehicle development will focus on battery technologies and public vehicle fleets, in a bid to kick an over-dependence on subsidies, according to officials.

Premier Li Keqiang vowed to “step up support” for the electric vehicle industry at a meeting of the State Council on Wednesday by shifting funds from supporting EV production to rewarding companies that produce new technologies and hit sales targets, according to the government website.

Principal targets include achieving a “revolutionary breakthrough” in battery technologies and using EVs for taxi and bus fleets in major cities.

China considers the development of its EV market a key strategic goal, and policy has encouraged auto producers to focus on fuel replacement in the hope that such technologies will allow them to be competitive abroad while reducing air pollution at home.

Subsidies for producers and buyers alike helped sales rocket to more than 330,000 vehicles in 2015, up fourfold from 2014 but still shy of Beijing’s goal of half a million.

Growth-by-subsidies cuts both ways, however, and reports in Chinese media of widespread “fraudulent” claims by companies that take government money without redirecting their efforts towards the expensive process of EV technology development prompted the Finance Ministry to announce in January that it would phase out subsidies by 2021.

“The age of subsidising manufacturers is whittling away,” said Bill Russo, managing director at Gao Feng, a Shanghai-based advisory. The government has “decided to focus the development down to areas where China can develop some degree of competitive leadership,” he said.

Sourcing and manufacturing battery-related technology, a key component of electric vehicles, is one area in which China has a natural advantage due to its large — and carefully guarded — store of rare earth metals such as lanthanum, which is used to make hybrid batteries.

The success of companies such as US-based Tesla Motors has been as much due to battery technologies as to motors and recharging components, and China is keen to create homegrown champions that can compete in this crucial area. Currently most major EV producers in China are joint ventures with foreign carmakers.

Mr Li’s statements also included a push to use public transport and institutions as a conduit for boosting EV sales, with the mandated percentage of new energy vehicles purchased by public institutions rising to 50 per cent from a previous 30 per cent.

The prospect of updated public transport fleets being encouraged to use only electric vehicles also raises the possibility of an uneven playing field developing, with local manufacturers given priority in bidding for deals.

“When you look at the taxi fleet in any city, they are pretty much buying for the home team,” said Mr Russo. “The local manufacturer has the advantage.”

Click here to read this article at FT.com

James Bond’s Favorite Car Goes Electric

NBC News, February 18, 2016

Aston Martin is going electric.

The very British car manufacturer — best known for its association with that other perfectly proportioned British export, James Bond — just inked a deal with China’s LeEco to make an electric version of the luxury car by 2018.

skyfall-daniel-craig-as-james-bond-with-aston-martin-db5_fc9fd22f936a7024fabe1d04d482ef62.nbcnews-ux-600-480

Aston Martin made the announcement Thursday at a press conference in Frankfurt, adding that the cars would be manufactured at the company’s flagship plant in Gaydon, England.

LeEco, a Beijing-based tech company, said in a statement, “We have been targeting the highest standard in the auto industry in terms of design, R&D and manufacturing of our electric cars.”

China is proving to be a driving force in the creation of electric vehicles, not just providing the parts but also the innovative technology. Analysts predict that “China will be the epicenter for electrification of the auto industry globally,” said Bill Russo of Gao Feng Advisory Co., who estimates that China will invest 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) on new-energy vehicles by 2020.

The new RapidE car will be based on the Rapide S model, which currently retails at around $200,000. No details were disclosed as to the projected price point for the RapidE. No word either on whether it will include revolving license plates, front-wing machine guns, or an ejector seat.

Reimagining Mobility in the China Context

Gao Feng Insights Report, February 2016

We are pleased to share with you our paper titled: Reimagining Mobility in the China Context. This article builds on the themes from our previous article titled Digital Disruption in China’s Automotive Industry, and offers a perspective at how the traditional value chain of the automotive industry is being fundamentally transformed by a new wave of “digital disruptors”.

Unlike traditional automotive OEMs and suppliers, these digital disruptors are leveraging mobile internet technology to present new and innovative “Connected Mobility” services to users, and in the process challenging the business model of the automotive industry. The century old hardware-centric business model of individual car ownership and product-based segmentation is transforming into a new form which leverages internet technology to deliver a broader range of services to address mobility needs.  Such changes are happening faster in China than in the rest of the world, where the size and scale of the urban population and the sheer numbers of mobile internet users are much greater than other markets.

In such an environment, China’s Internet giants (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) along with mobility disruptors such as LeEco and NextEV are vying to deliver an increasingly connected, electrified, smart and personalized mobility experience.  Coupled with the Chinese government’s regulatory push on new-energy vehicle adoption and sustainable transportation infrastructure, China has demonstrated strong potential to become the breeding ground for the Connected Mobility revolution.   As a result, Automotive OEM and supplier CEOs must learn to reimagine mobility in the China context in order to secure a strong position in this new competitive landscape.

We welcome your comments and feedback on our briefing paper or in general about our firm. We would be glad to meet you in person to share our data and perspectives in a fuller manner. Please let us know if you are interested in meeting and discussing directly how we can help you to operationalize these insights.

Thought leadership is core to what Gao Feng does. We will, from time to time, share with you our latest thinking on business and management, especially as it relates to China and China’s role in the world.

Best Regards,

Bill Russo
Managing Director, Gao Feng Advisory Company
bill.russo@gaofengadv.com

Edward Tse
Chairman and CEO, Gao Feng Advisory Company
edward.tse@gaofengadv.com

Tel: +86 10 5650 0676 (Beijing); +852 2588 3554 (Hong Kong); +86 21 5117 5853 (Shanghai)

Digital Disruption in China’s Automotive Industry

Gao Feng Insights Report, January 2016

We are pleased to share with you our paper titled: Digital Disruption in China’s Automotive Industry. Recent advances in mobile connectivity, big data and social networks have infiltrated the traditional automotive industry and are beginning to redraw the competitive landscape among traditional hardware companies and digital “disruptors”.

The traditional automotive industry, where technology innovation has primarily been focused on powertrain and safety systems, must now contend with new forms of mobility services that are transforming the business model of the auto industry. The conventional hardware-centric, sales-driven, asset-heavy, and ownership-based business model with sporadic customer interactions is being superseded by more connected, on-demand, cost-effective, personalized mobility services. This new form of “connected mobility” is driving new technologies in the areas of navigation, analytics, driver safety, driver assistance and information virtualization.

China’s automotive industry is at the forefront of digital disruption as this transformation is happening much faster in China than the rest of the world, and China will leapfrog to a new era of personalized and electrified mobility.  The unique context of China’s urban transportation challenge, the high rate of adoption of mobile device connectivity, combined with the rapid and aggressive introduction of alternative mobility and ownership concepts will compress the time needed to commercialize smart, connected car technology and related services.  These conditions may permit China to “leapfrog” to towards a new era of personalized and electrified mobility.

We welcome your comments and feedback on our briefing paper or in general about our firm. We would be glad to meet you in person to share our data and perspectives in a fuller manner. Please let us know if you are interested in meeting and discussing directly how we can help you to operationalize these insights.

Thought leadership is core to what Gao Feng does. We will, from time to time, share with you our latest thinking on business and management, especially as it relates to China and China’s role in the world.

Best Regards,

Bill Russo
Managing Director, Gao Feng Advisory Company
bill.russo@gaofengadv.com

Edward Tse
Chairman and CEO, Gao Feng Advisory Company
edward.tse@gaofengadv.com

Tel: +86 10 5650 0676 (Beijing); +852 2588 3554 (Hong Kong); +86 21 5117 5853 (Shanghai)

China Seen Laying Down $15 Billion Bet on Electric Vehicles

Bloomberg News, December 16, 2015

China to be `epicenter of electrification,’ analyst says

BYD, Zotye among biggest sellers of electric cars in China

China has found electric cars a tough sell even after lavishing consumers with subsidies and privileges. After almost certainly failing to meet a target to have half a million of such vehicles on its roads by year end, its next act is to achieve a 10-fold increase by the end of the decade.

The electric vehicles in service will fall about 26 percent short of its year-end target, according to estimates from the science ministry and state-backed auto association. To meet its 2020 goal of five million EVs, the government will speed up the construction of charging stations, reducing a major inconvenience for urban residents who don’t have personal garages to charge their cars.

“China will be the epicenter for electrification of the auto industry globally,” said Bill Russo, Shanghai-based managing director at Gao Feng Advisory Co., who estimates that China would have invested 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) by 2020 on new-energy vehicles.

President Xi Jinping has designated electric vehicles as a strategic initiative in a bid to upgrade the auto industry and create challengers to Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. The government is increasing spending after signs that the combination of research grants, consumer subsidies and infrastructure investments is starting to yield results. New-energy vehicle production surged fourfold to 279,200 units in the first 11 months, even as oil traded near levels last seen during the global financial crisis.

Local Winners

That has benefited automakers like BYD Co., Zoyte Auto and BAIC Motor Corp., which have led sales of electric cars. BYD, backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., would have turned a loss in 2014 and this year if not for EV subsidies from the central government, according to Barclays Plc. Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. said last month that it would target new-energy vehicles to make up 90 percent of sales by 2020.

The government incentives have lured consumers like Zhang Peng, 30, who decided to buy BAIC’s EV200 electric car after trying without success for two years to win a license plate in the bimonthly lottery held by the Beijing government. EVs are exempt from the ballot, which has worse odds than roulette.

Zhang also received 90,000 yuan in matching grants from the central and local governments, or almost half of the 208,922 yuan sticker price for BAIC’s EV200 electric car. The model costs about 7.5 yuan to run every 100 kilometers (62 miles), compared with an estimated 39 yuan for an equivalent gasoline-powered 1.6-liter Toyota Corolla, according to calculations based on the published fuel-economy rating and Beijing pump prices.

Battery Suppliers

The burgeoning demand has also helped battery suppliers such as South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co. and LG Chem Ltd., which supplies SAIC Motor Corp. and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Panasonic Corp. said it is considering building a car-battery factory in China to supply lithium-ion batteries.

Among local component makers, Wanxiang Qianchao Co. and Hunan Corun New Energy Co. have more than doubled in Shanghai trading this year as investors bet the surge in electric vehicle demand will boost demand. BYD has climbed 34 percent this year and Geely Automobile has surged 79 percent in Hong Kong trading, compared with the 8.4 percent decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Global automakers are beginning to get into the act. Volkswagen AG, the largest foreign carmaker by sales, has said it will introduce 15 locally produced new-energy vehicles in the next three to five years in the country. Ford Motor Co. said this month it’s investing $4.5 billion globally in electrified vehicles.

‘Foreigners Coming’

“In the initial stage it was mainly local automakers competing with each other in the electric-car segment, but now the foreign players are coming,” said Ouyang Minggao, director of the Tsinghua New Energy Vehicle Center. “All kinds of electric cars will be here soon, including plug-in hybrids, which will lead to very big challenges to local automakers.”

The Chinese government is not alone in setting aggressive targets for alternative-energy transportation. President Barack Obama in 2011 called for one million electrified vehicles in the U.S. by 2015, a target that the administration scaled back in March after low gasoline prices reduced the cost advantage of plug-in and hybrid vehicles.

China, though, has stood out in terms of the scale of the state’s financial support. The country has invested about 37 billion yuan into the new-energy vehicle segment over the past five years, according to Gao Feng’s Russo, who estimates the government will devote another 63 billion yuan by 2020.

Funding Plan

The central government released a plan on Wednesday detailing funding for local governments to construct charging facilities, tied to the number of new-energy vehicles they sell.

Automakers will have to play by China’s rules if they want a piece of the market, even if they don’t believe in electric cars. The government has mandated the lowering of average fuel consumption to 5 liters by 2020, from 6.9 liters per 100 km this year.

“There is really no choice for the automakers, if they are required to meet the more stringent emission standards by 2020,” said Steve Man, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Other technologies with the stringent emission standards won’t get you all the way to target.”

Bill Russo to Join Future of Mobility Panel at IAA Frankfurt

Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015

Gao Feng’s Managing Director and Auto Practice leader Bill Russo will join a panel discussion to discuss the Future of Mobility from 5:00 – 6:30pm at the Marriott Hotel.

Topic: How to Succeed in Digital Transformation

 

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