General Motors has now joined a slew of other major automakers, including Toyota, Chinese state-backed SAIC Motor and Mercedes-Benz AG, in putting its chips behind Chinese autonomous driving startup Momenta.
GM, the largest automaker in the U.S. in terms of vehicle sales, said Tuesday it will invest $300 million in Momenta to accelerate the development of AV tech for future GM vehicles in China. Julian Blissett, executive VP of GM and president of GM China, said in a statement that the investment will help the automaker bring “solutions tailor-made for [GM’s] consumers in China.”
The news comes less than six months after Momenta closed a nearly $500 million funding round, which saw participation from SAIC, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz AG and Bosch. As TechCrunch’s Rita Liao notes, “mega-fundraising has become common in the capital-intensive autonomous vehicle world.” But it appears that the startup is moving closer to commercialization as it aims to mass-produce cars equipped with its software by the end of this year.
This is just the latest aggressive investment into next-gen technology from GM, which said in June it had earmarked $35 billion for electric and AV ventures through 2025. Here in the U.S., GM’s interest in autonomous technology is best-known via its self-driving subsidiary, Cruise, which recently tapped a $5 billion line of credit from the automaker’s financial firm.
But GM has also established a strong series of partnerships in China, as it seeks to take a firm foothold in the world’s largest EV market. The country’s best-selling electric vehicle, a tiny city car called the Wuling Mini EV, is manufactured by SAIC-GM-Wuling — as the name suggests, a joint venture between GM, SAIC and Wuling Motors. SAIC-GM-Wuling also manufactures the popular brand Baojun.
Chinese municipal governments have also taken a notably progressive stance toward autonomous driving, Chinese AV startup executives noted at TC Mobility in June.
“In China, each local government is incentivized to really act like entrepreneurs like us,” Huan Sun, Europe general manager at Momenta, said during the event. “They are very progressive in developing the local economy… What we feel is that autonomous driving technology can greatly improve and upgrade the [local governments’] economic structure.”
While GM declined to state when drivers would see Momenta tech in its Chinese vehicles, a spokesperson for the automaker confirmed that the partnership between the two companies would not extend to GM vehicles manufactured and sold in the U.S.