Chinese company Geely to launch flying cars after Terrafugia deal
The Chinese Automotive giant Zhejiang Geely Holding Group said last week that it will roll out its first flying car in 2019 in the United States.
Geely acquired the Massachusetts-based startup Terrafugia, which is pioneering flying cars.
As part of the acquisition, Geely has acquired all the Terrafugias’ operations and assets and has received all the necessary approvals for the deal, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.
Terrafugia was founded in 2006 by five graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They launched their first flying car model Transition in 2012 with priced at $279,000. Then a year later in 2013, the company released the design for its next model TF-X, which is the world's first flying car capable of vertical take-off and landing.
Geely said it would further invest in the flying car business however, the car will not be available in the Chinese market in the short term due to the country's regulations on low-altitude flying.
The company's innovation center in Hangzhou will also be used by Terrafugia. The US team of engineers has been tripled over the past quarter as a result of Geely's support.
The founder and chairman of Geely Group, Li Shufu, considers flying cars as the ultimate mobility solution and with their expertise, they believe that they can make the flying car a commercial reality.
Terrafugia's newly appointed CEO Chris Jaran said the first priority would be to expand the company's R&D capabilities.
Shenzhen-based technology giant Tencent Holdings has led the $90 million series B financing in the German flying car startup Lilium. Other industry leaders such as Airbus, Toyota, Uber and Google have all stepped into the flying car sector, as it is believed to be the next big thing following autonomous driving.
Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight, admitted that such cars will help alleviate traffic jams, but added that they are a little bit far from reality.
"The main problem is technology. They have to run fast but at the same time make it affordable. If they cost as much as $2 million, then they mean nothing to the public. Then there is the legislation," he said.
John Zeng, managing director of LMC Automotive Shanghai, said that such cars might be easier to promote in North America, where there is little control over the sky and has a much smaller population, like Canada.
"But it would be hard to imagine that cars fly at any time in densely populated Chinese cities like Beijing or Shanghai,".
"At least in the short term, flying cars will not become something important in Geely's business,".
"But it is not surprising that Geely is investing in it. Many car makers, faced with challenges brought about by electric cars and autonomous driving, are making investments in frontier technologies, as the future is becoming more uncertain. So they make hay when the sun shines,".