‘Wallonia to invest in Chinese car maker on Caterpillar site’
According to Chinese business newspaper,Digitimes, in Taipei (Taiwan), the Walloon government agrees to invest 150 million dollar in Chinese electric car maker Thunder Power if they decide to choose the former Caterpillar site in Gosselies for their European development center and a production facility.
Not signed yet
Asked by the Belgian financial newspaper, L’Echo, the Walloon government’s investment vehicle, Sogepa, ‘hides behind the confidentiality of the discussions’. Sogepa confirms it’s been asked for an investment of 150 million dollar as its part of the total investment by Thunder Power, but emphasizes nothing is signed yet.
The Chinese CEO of Thunder Power, Shen Wei, told Digitimes the Walloon government agreed with the investment during its visit to the factory of Gangzhou, in the south-east of China.
‘Favourable environment for investments’
He thinks the ‘environment for foreign investments created by the Belgian authorities is ‘favourable’ for installing a R&D center and a production site for its electric cars at the Caterpillar site. But there are rivals in the field, like Catalonia (Spain), which is eager to reel in the Chinese too.
Reason for the government, Sogepa and AWEX, the Walloon agency for foreign investments (L’Agence wallonne à l’Exportation et aux Investissements étrangers) to be very cautious and to to tread on eggs in all comments. “It’s a complex dossier and confidential”, a spokesman of Walloon Minister of Economy, Pierre-Yves Jeholet (MR), says.
‘The more we talk, the bigger the risk’
“The more we talk about it, the bigger the risk the deal won’t be concluded”, one of the top guys of Sogepa confined to L’Echo. Although the site of Caterpillar in Gosselies is not mentioned explicitly in the Digitimes’ article, it’s clear that Thunder Power is the Chinese party the Walloon government is talking with.
Earlier this month Minister for Economy, Pierre-Yves Jeholet, confirmed in the regional parliament ‘a Chinese electric car maker’ is interested in taking over – probably partly – the former Caterpillar site in Gosselies.
R&D in Milan
Meanwhile the Chinese boss seems quite pleased with the idea of coming to Belgium. Last April Shen Wei himself lead a trade mission to visit Wallonia to look for possible investments and talked with government agencies.
Thunder Power has already a research and development center in Milan (Italy). In China, apart from the factory in Gangzhou, Thunder Power with its headquarters in Hong Kong, has a battery factory in Taiwan.
Thunder Power wants to build 40.000 cars in Europe in the near future. Although it hasn’t homologated its cars for Europe yet, it showed already its Tesla S-like electric model for the first time at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015 with an autonomy of 650 km. Prices would be situated 40% lower than Tesla’s Model S.
The Chinese manufacturer wants to commercialize its sedan by 2019, followed by a full electric premium SUV in 2020. This would be a competitor for the Tesla X, but also for the Audi e-tron, which is built in the Audi factory in Brussels.