Netherlands-based conglomerate Stellantis has today (26 October) announced that it will invest €1.5bn ($1.6bn) to acquire 20% of Leapmotor, a Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer.

The investment will make Stellantis a significant shareholder in Leapmotor, giving the former exclusive rights for exporting, selling and manufacturing Leapmotor products outside China.

In addition, the partnership will boost Leapmotor’s sales in China, which is already the biggest EV market in the world. According to the World Resources Institute, 22% of passenger vehicles sold in 2022 in China were electric (up to 4.4 million sales). That is 1.4 million more than the 3 million EVs sold in the rest of the world.

Stellantis plans to use Leapmotor’s EV ecosystem in China to help achieve its Dare Forward 2030 electrification goals.

News about the partnership came after in March 2023, Stellantis – a partnership between the Italian–American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the French PSA Group – said it would invest €130m in its Eisenach assembly plant to undertake production of a battery electric vehicle successor model.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares commented: “As consolidation unfolds among the capable electric vehicles start-ups in China, it becomes increasingly apparent that a handful of efficient and agile new generation EV players, like Leapmotor, will come to dominate the mainstream segments in China.

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“We feel it’s the perfect time to take a leading role in supporting the global expansion plans of Leapmotor, one of the most impressive new EV players who has a similar tech-first, entrepreneurial mindset to ours. Through this strategic investment, we can address a white space in our business model and benefit from Leapmotor’s competitiveness both in China and abroad.”

The joint venture between the two companies is expected to start shipping vehicles in the second half of 2024.