Geely, Mercedes-Benz launch $780 million JV to make electric smart-branded cars

The Mercedes-Benz logo is pictured at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd and Mercedes-Benz on Wednesday said they would each invest 2.7 billion yuan ($388.77 million) in a China-based venture to build “premium and intelligent electrified” vehicles under the smart brand.

The 50:50 venture has received regulatory approval and will be based in the Chinese coastal city of Ningbo, the Chinese and German automakers said in a statement. Like Mercedes-Benz, smart is a Daimler AG marque.

The venture will have manufacturing capacity in China and sales operations in China and Germany, the automakers said. Geely will lead in engineering the cars while Mercedes-Benz will take charge of their overall look, they said.

The partners will each have three executives on the board of directors, with Geely’s Tong Xiangbei becoming the venture’s global chief executive.

Geely has expanded rapidly through mergers and acquisitions since buying Sweden’s Volvo in 2010 from U.S. parent Ford. In 2018, it built a stake of almost 9.7% in Daimler and set up a ride-hailing venture in China with the Stuttgart-based carmaker.

Its latest announcement comes just over a month after China’s Great Wall Motor Co Ltd and Germany’s BMW AG formed a venture to build electric Mini-branded cars in China, the world’s biggest market for electrified vehicles where demand for smaller EVs is on the rise.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Christopher Cushing