March 6, 2018 News of the Day: AISIN Group Launching a $50 Million Automotive Fund Focused on Silicon Valley Technology, Audi Shows its Upcoming E-Tron Prototype at the Geneva Motor Show

Author: Eric Walz   

AISIN Group Launching a $50 Million Automotive Fund Focused on Silicon Valley Technology

SAN JOSE, Calif., — AISIN Group, one of the world's largest automotive parts suppliers, is launching a $50 million venture fund with Silicon Valley-based Fenox Venture Capital.

Fenox VC will manage this strategic fund as a General Partner, and AISIN Group will be investing as a corporate venture capital Limited Partner.

This partnership with Fenox VC will serve as a gateway for AISIN Group to access the top technology startups through Fenox VC's global network, collaborate with world-class automotive related technology startups, and provide the startups with access to the greater Asian and global markets.

"This is the right timing for AISIN to find the cutting-edge technology in the automotive space, and we are happy to have Fenox VC be the partner to lead the new venture for us," said Naofumi Fujie, Executive Vice President who is in charge of R&D in AISIN. "Fenox VC has the global access and knowledge to get us to where we want to be in the future."

"Fenox VC plays a vital role as the bridge between global startups and both large public and private enterprises from around the world. We have been creating win-win partnerships between startups and global enterprises," said Anis Uzzaman, General Partner and CEO of Fenox Venture Capital. "We are excited to invest in top startups from this strategic fund and support technology collaboration with AISIN Group."

Just last week, AISIN, Toyota and Denso announced a US$2.8 billion joint venture for developing automated-driving technology. According to Uzzaman, the Fenox partnership is rather an additional effort on AISIN's part to enhance its automotive-related technology offerings. "AISIN not only wants to find out top technologies, but also wants to understand the technology trend, new types of business models and business techniques through this partnership/fund."

The goal of this fund will be to identify the top Silicon Valley technology, and further support it through Fenox VC and AISIN's network, eventually spreading through the global markets.

This new fund will target startups in the areas of automotive related technologies, such as autonomous driving, LiDAR, connected vehicles (V2V), artificial intelligence, IoT, AR/VR, and other technology that requires hardware-software collaboration between companies.

The partnership will act as a bridge between the U.S. and the Asian/global market, helping the entrepreneurship community as a whole.

Audi Shows its Upcoming E-Tron Prototype at the Geneva Motor Show


GENEVA — Audi has brought a handful of late E-Tron prototypes to the Geneva Motor Show to give the automotive world a preview of its first all-electric model, which is due to be officially revealed in August.

Instead of debuting on the show floor, the prototypes were driven around the public streets of Geneva shortly before making an appearance at Audi's press conference next to the all-new Audi A6.

Audi's E-Tron prototypes are powered by three electric motors generating a combined 320 kW (or about 425 hp). Together, they form an electronic version of Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system. The E-Tron battery pack that can be recharged at fast-charging stations in just 30 minutes with a estimated range of about 310 miles per charge.

The production version of the Audi E-Tron will be revealed in Brussels on August 30, and until then the German company will be testing a fleet of 250 prototypes disguised with body wrapping on public roads.

The overall design appears to be much sportier than, say, the Audi Q5, with the electric SUV adopting more aggressive LED lights all around and a new shape for the front grille, which is now, for the most part, sealed-off. The new Audi E-Tron will also offer "ample" room for five passengers.

No technical details were revealed, apart from the fact that the electric SUV will be essentially all-wheel drive, with what Audi calls e-quattro. "Thanks to the electrical quattro, its long-distance range and comprehensive charging options, customers can drive purely electrically without compromises", Audi said in its press release.

The new electric SUV will be capable of using fast-charge 150kW stations, with Audi saying that 30 minutes of charge will be sufficient for the E-Tron to be ready for "the next leg of the long-distance journey".

If the final production car stays true to the 2015 concept, it means that it will use three electric motors. The concept claimed a combined 430hp, along with a 500 hp overboost function for short bursts of power. The E-Tron can go 0-60 mph came in 4.5 seconds and the total driving range of the concept is around 310 miles.

China's Geely Offered $22 Billion to Purchase Fiat Chrysler in Failed Bid


The founder and chairman of China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. has global expansion on his mind. Two weeks ago, Li Shufu succeeded in becoming Daimler's largest single shareholder. But before that, he made a play for Fiat Chrysler, and details about the bid are surfacing.

A report from Automotive News sheds more light on the billionaire's attempt to buy some— or all of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) from Exor, the Agnelli family-controlled holding company that controls it.

In May, Li flew to Italy to see Agnelli scion John Elkann in a private, top-secret, closely guarded meeting, the story says, and from there he put forth an initial offering of $20 billion for FCA.

The merger would have been perfect for both parties, Li must have surmised. FCA is the third-largest automaker in the U.S. and the fourth largest in Europe, as the story notes, but it's huge in Latin America and weak in Asia where Geely already had a strong foothold.

In addition, FCA boss Sergio Marchionne had been looking for a merger partner or a buyer for some time, and Geely would have gained valuable brands like Maserati or Jeep, and even storied American makes like Dodge and Ram.

However, the $20 billion offer was deemed too low.

From the story:

The initial offer valued FCA at $20 billion. It constituted Geely purchasing Exor's stake as well as a public tender for the 71 percent of shares held by other investors. The offer was rejected.

Geely's emissaries then raised their offer to $22 billion, with no success. Two sources with direct ties to the discussions gave different views on why a deal didn't happen.

The first source, speaking under condition of anonymity, said the sweetened $22 billion offer was deemed too low. Exor was convinced it could have extracted more value by selling FCA in parts.

Exor had some idea on how to split up the sprawling FCA conglomerate. More on how that might have worked:

Under that scenario, one step would have involved the spinoff or sale of FCA's Magneti Marelli parts business, a move FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne still wants to pull off this year.

Another step would have combined Alfa Romeo and Maserati into a separate company to be sold. A third would have seen the Jeep and Ram brands being sold as a package. Finally, the remaining European, U.S. and Latin American businesses would have been offered to a fourth buyer, possibly a Chinese group.

The second source said FCA was open to accepting a $22 billion deal if Italian brands Alfa and Maserati were excluded. However, Geely rejected that idea. The discussions ended in August.

Geely moved on with its own plans, buying a stake in Daimler instead. Geely also bought Volvo from Ford after the recession in 2009, and owns London Taxi and Lotus.

Getting financial resources seems to be no obstacle. He plays an active political role in China and is a regular delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a largely ceremonial political advisory body.

His political savvy may have helped get the Daimler investment done smoothly, analysts and local media said, especially amid a crackdown by China on overseas deals.

In announcing the Daimler deal, China's official Xinhua news agency said Geely reflected a wider "bullish" push by local automakers overseas and the overall "rising strength of Chinese automakers."

Meanwhile, China continues its push into the worldwide automotive ecosystem.

Italian Design Company Icona Debuts Nucleus Autonomous Concept Vehicle in Geneva

icona-nucleus-concept - 0 (1).jpg

The Italian design company Icona announced its debut at the 88th Geneva International Motor show, unveiling a worldwide premiere—the autonomous driving concept vehicle Icona Nucleus, powered by Elaphe in-wheel drive.

The ICONA concept Nucleus represents the future of mobility with a human-centered mindset. With level 5 automated driving, the Nucleus jumps two generations ahead.

Inside the vehicle, the absence of a driver does not only mean the absence of a steering wheel and a dashboard, but the opportunity for a new understanding of mobile living spaces, where the focus is no longer the road but the journey.

For Icona, a "less is more approach" has been used when designing the concept, resulting in a fluid and sculptural body that combines the needs of both aerodynamics and ergonomics. Beyond its technological innovation, Nucleus also shows us the future for the next generation of cars.

In-Wheel Electric Motors


Elaphe, headquartered in Europe, is a world leader in-wheel motor technology company and supplied the motors for the Nucleus. The Elaphe L1500 in-wheel motor is currently the brand's highest-performance product, producing 1500 Nm peak torque which available to each wheel throughout the speed range, delivering 110kW of maximum power to each wheel.

The four L1500 in-wheel motors on the Nucleus provide the concept car with a total of 440kW of wheel power (in the same range as the Lamborghini Huracan).

Not only does the in-wheel motor deliver superior performance without the technical complexities of a combustion engine, gears, transmissions, differential, driveshafts and other components, it allows designers more flexibility for the interior, making it more like home.

The Icona Nucleus' luxury interior design redefines the rules of people's activities in the car - six comfortable seats can be seamlessly adjusted, or even joined to resemble two large sofas; it also features a lamp, and a table, to allow passengers the freedom of choice between an office or leisure time. The passengers get to feel like if they are sitting in a luxurious living room, fully enjoying the graceful time on the road.

Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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