VW rumoured to be negotiating with Leapmotor
According to Chinese media, Volkswagen is planning another electric car cooperation in China. The German carmaker is reportedly negotiating with the Chinese carmaker Leapmotor, apparently with different aims than the cooperation with Xpeng.
In contrast to the Xpeng deal announced a week ago, VW would buy or license a platform from Leapmotor, according to the report by Cailian. Leapmotor’s technology would then be used in low-cost e-cars of the Jetta car brand, which is operated in China together with FAW, the article says. It is unclear which platform is involved.
Leapmotor has just presented a new electronics architecture called ‘Four-Leaf Clover’. It is possible that VW’s possible cooperation with Leapmotor is not about the use of a complete electric car platform, but about this electronics architecture. However, this has not been confirmed, and is merely speculation in the Chinese media.
The “Four-Leaf Clover” architecture was developed entirely by Leapmotor and combines a single system-on-chip (SOC) and a single microcontroller unit (MCU) into a central supercomputing unit. Computing power for the cockpit system, assistance systems, powertrain and body functions is to be provided by the unit. The system is OTA-capable, meaning it can be supplied with updates via mobile radio.
“Plenty of scope for collaboration”
Specifically, the report says that Volkswagen’s joint venture partner FAW has already drafted an internal document stating that the Jetta brand should focus on “low-cost electric vehicles” after the deal is completed. In addition, the company’s headquarters will be moved to Hangzhou, where the FAW-Audi joint venture is also based. However, “Cailian” has apparently not seen the document itself, but reports on the document with reference to “persons familiar with the deal”.
The media mention the Jetta VS5 and Jetta VS7 models, which are in the same price range as some of Leapmotor’s series – thus, according to the report, there is “plenty of scope for the two to work together”. However, this is not confirmed by either company. Both the VS5 and the VS7 are based on VW’s Modular Transverse Toolkit, which means that they are combustion models. The VS5 is comparable to the Seat Ateca or Skoda Karoq, the VS7 to the Seat Tarraco or VW Tiguan Allspace.
However, a potential deal would match past statements by both parties. Leapmotor CEO Zhu Jiangming apparently stated in late July that the company had “agreements to provide vehicle technology licensing” substantially completed. Leapmotor is trying to build its licensing business with batteries, e-motors, autonomous driving and smart cockpits into a second revenue stream alongside vehicle sales.
And VW board member Ralf Brandstätter, who is responsible for China, had stressed on the occasion of the Xpeng deal that local partnerships were “an essential building block of the Volkswagen Group’s ‘in China for China’ strategy”. “In a competitive and dynamic market environment, we are leveraging the strengths of Volkswagen and our partners to create synergies to bring additional products to market faster. In doing so, we focus on the specific needs of our customers in China. At the same time, we want to significantly optimize development and procurement costs,” Brandstätter said a week ago. This could also apply to Jetta and Leapmotor.