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Hyundai Motor, Aptiv to set up US$4b self-driving car venture

South Korean carmaker and two affiliates will spend US$1.6b in JV

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Aptiv CEO Kevin Clark (left) and Hyundai Motor Group executive vice chairman Euisun Chung at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York on Monday.

Seoul

HYUNDAI Motor Group will invest US$1.6 billion in a joint venture (JV) to develop self-driving vehicle technologies with Aptiv, the biggest overseas investment by the South Korean carmaker to catch up to rivals in the autonomous car market.

Global carmakers and their suppliers are forging alliances to develop autonomous car technologies partly due to the need to share the huge financial and technical burdens.

Hyundai has lagged global rivals who have invested heavily into developing new technologies for electrified and autonomous vehicles.

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Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hyundai Mobis will collectively contribute US$1.6 billion in cash and US$400 million in research and development resources and others, valuing the joint venture at US$4 billion, Hyundai Group and Aptiv said in a joint statement.

Dublin-headquartered Aptiv, which will own 50 per cent of the JV, will contribute its autonomous driving technology, intellectual property, and about 700 employees focused on the development of scalable autonomous driving solutions.

Aptiv chief executive Kevin Clark in a joint interview with Hyundai executive vice chairman and heir apparent Euisun Chung on Monday said the JV at this point would not get involved in running ride-hailing, data or network services of its own.

Instead, the new firm would begin testing fully driverless systems in 2020 and have a production-ready autonomous driving platform available for robotaxi providers, fleet operators and automakers in 2022.

"Uber is developing its own technology, but potentially our technology could be better than theirs and then they could also become our customers," Mr Chung said.

Hyundai Motor aims to commercialise its own autonomous vehicles in 2024. Mr Clark said the alliance would initially focus on self-driving technology for passenger vehicles. But Mr Chung said the Aptiv partnership ultimately also could help Hyundai speed up automation for commercial vehicles.

The executives said their technology would be tested and developed across Asia, Europe and the United States to offer products tailored to major markets. They said they would discuss additional alliance members going forward.

Aptiv, which manufactures vehicle components and provides technology for self-driving cars, was formerly known as Delphi Automotive, which was split into Aptiv and Delphi Technologies in 2017.

Deutsche Bank said in a report that Hyundai's cash injection would enable Aptiv to cut its near-term funding needs. But Deutsche questioned whether the new structure could deter other automakers from sourcing autonomous systems from Aptiv in the future.

Aptiv's major customers include GM, Volkswagen and Fiat, according to its annual report. Hyundai Motor is also one of its customers, a Hyundai spokesman said. Market research firm Navigant Research put Aptiv at No 4 among automated driving system companies, following Waymo, General Motors and Ford. Hyundai was not among the top 10 vendors.

The latest investment is another sign that Hyundai has abandoned its strategy of developing technology in-house, a strategy which previously raised investor concerns that it may be left behind in the race for future mobility.

Hyundai, which along with affiliate Kia Motors ranks fifth in global sales, has joined rivals in making a series of investments in technology firms especially after Mr Chung was promoted a year ago.

The Aptiv venture will be headquartered in Boston. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020. REUTERS