Chinese Internet search giant Baidu has led a 1.3-billion-yuan ($194 million) Series A funding round in ECARX, an intelligent auto solutions provider backed by automaker Geely.
The new investment, which valued ECARX at over 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), also saw participation from investment firm SIG China, investment bank Lighthouse Capital, the exclusive financial adviser of the deal, said in a WeChat post on Monday.
The Series A round came after ECARX and Baidu’s autonomous driving arm Apollo entered into an agreement, in July 2019, to jointly develop automotive AI, voice recognition, in-car maps, and Xiaodu In-Car OS, which is an Internet of Vehicles (IoV)-enabled auto solution created by Baidu. The companies are expected to deepen their cooperation in the aforementioned areas.
SIG China will also leverage its Internet resources to help ECARX improve IoV-related services, according to the post.
Founded in 2016 and strategically invested by Hangzhou-based Geely, ECARX is an independently operating technology firm that develops products like car chips, high-definition maps, digital cockpits, intelligent driving, as well as its big data and IoV-based cloud eco-network platform.
Its GKUI Smart Ecosystem, an IoV system that ECARX initially built for Geely mobiles, now serves over 2.2 million 4G-based users, and has been experiencing a user growth of over one million every year.
Upon the completion of the Series A round, ECARX will continue its focus on the R&D auto chips, high-definition maps, and autonomous driving technologies, as well as the promotion of its international expansion plan. It plans to officially launch a European R&D centre by the end of 2020 to offer its technologies and solutions to clients in Europe and the US.
The Hangzhou-based startup is rising to become one of the major players providing smart vehicle solutions and services in China, which is the world’s largest automobile market by sales that is entering a phase of rapid development driven by intelligence and connectivity technologies.
“ECARX has the best chance to become the next non-traditional automotive enterprise with a market capitalization of at least $100 billion in the automotive space,” said Leo Xuanle, CEO of Lighthouse Capital, in the WeChat post.