WM Motor, a Chinese electric vehicle (EV) startup backed by Tencent, announced it recently secured ¥10 billion ($1.47 billion) in Series D funding. The firm said it would use its new capital infusion to bolster its research, marketing, and sales efforts. To date, outside investors have poured $3.1 billion into the promising auto company.
A Rising Star
In 2015, Freeman Shen, a former Volvo and Fiat executive, founded the Shanghai headquartered WM Motor. As China sold more battery-powered vehicles than the rest of the planet combined in 2018, Shen picked a prime location for his new business.
One reason Sino consumers have taken to EVs is that Beijing offers significant purchase incentives for zero-emission automobiles. While discount programs have undoubtedly boosted the startup sales figures, that is not the only driver of its success.
Many EV manufacturers sell their products to the public on the strength of their fuel economy or sporty form factors. WM Motor takes a different approach. The startup concentrates its consumer outreach on communicating the family-friendliness of its flagship vehicles.
The firm’s EX5 SUV features a 5-star safety rating, an onboard air filtration system, and robust in-cabin entertainment options. The company’s unconventional strategy has paid major dividends. In a recent blog post, it explained 69 percent of its customers had been young families.
In fact, WM Motor recently set a new sales record for a Chinese EV. The firm just sold its 30,000th EX5, the most any company of its type has sold of one model.
Looking to the Future
Another reason for WM Motor’s popularity is that its fleet is very forward-looking, even by EV standards.
The company’s Weltmeister EX-Z SUVs can go 520km (320 miles) between charges. The vehicle also boasts an advanced driver’s assistance system, 4G media streaming, an onboard digital assistant, smart locking/unlocking functionality, and Bluetooth-enabled smart access. That’s a lot of next-generation features for a subsidized starting price of ¥149,800 ($21,983).
Nevertheless, WM Motor is working to ensure its upcoming EVs are even more sophisticated.
The firm recently revealed it would utilize Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit platform to make its smart cars even smarter. The company will also deploy Baidu’s Apollo self-driving platform in its forthcoming automobiles to make them more convenient.
In addition, WM Motor recently announced it would dedicate ¥20 billion ($2.95 million) to bring Level 4 vehicle autonomy and 5G-enabled smart cockpits to its lineup within five years. The firm’s new cash injection could help it expedite that timeline or develop even more impressive features.
Because of its design sensibilities, plentiful funding, and technology partnerships, WM Motor is one of China’s most exciting EV startups. If the firm continues to put in hard engineering and marketing work, it could become the next great Chinese automotive corporation.