The company apparently offered access to China's auto market in exchange for EV tech.
The more news we hear about Geely, the more we start scratching our heads. The Chinese company made some huge waves last month when it was revealed its billionaire CEO Li Shufu purchased $9 billion in Daimler shares, giving him a 9.69 percent stake in the company. That’s enough to make him the leading shareholder, but according to Spiegel Online and BMW Blog, Shufu first sought out a deal with Bimmer execs in Munich.
The reports say Geely wasn’t necessarily seeking to buy BMW outright or even acquire stock, but rather wanted a partnership for some mutual back-scratching. Specifically, Shufu wanted electric car tech from BMW and in return promised the Germans clear access into the Chinese auto market, allegedly leveraging Geely’s influence in the Chinese government. These confidential talks are reported to have taken place back in 2016, and obviously the answer was no because BMW ultimately partnered with Geely’s competitor, Great Wall.
Just so everyone is on the same page, let’s summarize Geely’s automotive moves over the past several years. We now have this partnership play with BMW in 2016; prior to that the company bought Volvo from Ford in 2010. Last year it picked up Lotus and, oddly enough, flying car manufacturer Terrafugia. The group also allegedly made an offer to buy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles last year that was turned down, and a similar offer to Daimler was turned down – reportedly with Daimler telling Geely that it could purchase stock on the open market like any other investor. That's exactly what Shufu ultimately did.
Oh yeah, Geely is also the parent organization of the Chinese luxury brand Lynk & Co, which Ford is pursuing in a lawsuit because the odd name sounds pretty much exactly like Ford’s luxury division, Lincoln.
In a report from Reuters, an anonymous source familiar with Shufu said the CEO envisions an automotive future where just two or three present-day automakers will exist, and that he thinks current manufacturers should unite to survive. That seems a bit bizarre to us at the very least, considering just how many automakers there are around the world. But it would explain why Geely seems borderline desperate to buy all car companies right now.
As for the stake in Daimler, the German company welcomed Shufu but also emphasized its strong Chinese partnership already in place with BAIC Motor – another one of Geely’s competitors. Stay tuned to see what moves Geely tries to make next week.