After striking technology-sharing deals with China's XPeng and SAIC Motor, Volkswagen Group is now reportedly in talks with yet another Chinese EV maker, Zhejiang Leapmotor Technology.
According to a report from Chinese media outlet Cailian Press picked up by Reuters, Volkswagen is interested in buying a new EV platform from Leapmotor to use for vehicles sold under its China-only Jetta brand. Jetta is a joint venture between Volkswagen and Chinese state-owned automaker FAW Group that doesn't currently sell electric vehicles.
Leapmotor unveiled on July 31 a new electric vehicle platform it developed in-house. CEO Zhu Jiangming said the company wanted to license the platform to other automakers and told reporters that Leapmotor was in advanced talks with two foreign companies about such a partnership.
He noted that one of the companies is a new player in the electric vehicle segment, which could build Leapmotor-developed models in overseas markets. Volkswagen China and Leapmotor declined to comment on the report about holding cooperation talks.
The Chinese carmaker said earlier this week that its new "Four Leaf Clover" architecture features an integrated computing platform capable of controlling all intelligent functions including smart cockpit functions and an EV's autonomous driving.
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A senior engineer at Leapmotor said at the platform's unveiling that the company has achieved cost savings by reducing the use of controls and wire harnesses, with CEO Zhu saying this would cut the materials cost per car by $70 (500 yuan).
Leapmotor is already planning to launch the platform's next generation in 2025, with the new iteration said to bring improvements in computing capabilities and smart cockpits, according to Zhu.
Leapmotor is backed by investors including state-owned Shanghai Electric Group Corp and Hongshan, formerly known as Sequoia Capital China. The company sold 44,500 vehicles in the first half of the year, down 14 percent over a year ago.
Rumors about Volkswagen holding talks with Leapmotor come after the German giant last week announced a partnership to develop EVs in China based on XPeng's "Edward" platform on which the EV startup's G9 flagship SUV is built. VW also took a 4.99 percent stake in XPeng worth $700 million.
In addition to the XPeng deal, Volkswagen Group subsidiary Audi reached a deal with SAIC Motor to jointly develop EVs in a segment where the German premium brand does not as yet have a presence in China.
Volkswagen and XPeng, as well as Audi and SAIC, also agreed to jointly develop new local platforms for the next generation of intelligent, fully connected vehicles (ICV).