Beijing Auto mulls joint venture with Aston Martin

Mainland carmaker mulls joint venture with Aston Martin in move to diversify product lines

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 8:31am

Beijing Automotive Group plans to set up more joint ventures with foreign brands such as Aston Martin Lagonda of James Bond fame as the state-owned carmaker seeks to diversify its product lines.

People close to the situation told the South China Morning Post that Beijing Auto had been in talks with investment bankers and consultants for various proposals about how it could expand its product lines in partnership with foreign carmakers.

Beijing Auto is trying to provide different types of cars to meet the growing demand of mainland consumers, particularly the middle-class whose desire for cars has gone beyond the basic need of transport and become focused more on luxury lifestyle.

Officials at Beijing Auto and Aston Martin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Among options for Beijing Auto is a joint venture with Aston Martin - whose cars have been made famous by the James Bond film franchise.

The potential partnership was recently recommended to Beijing Auto by a well-known Chinese investment banker who was working on behalf of the legendary British luxury carmaker, said the people who declined to be identified as the talks remain confidential and private.

Aston Martin is a household name in Europe, partly thanks to the image of its brand which is linked with the fictional British secret agent James Bond, who often drives its cars in the film series.

More recently, the bosses at Aston Martin have become more interested in emerging markets such as China and India as the firm is keen to expand outside Europe where the euro-zone debt crisis continues to worsen.

"Aston Martin Lagonda is not only about sedans but also about big luxury cars for multiple uses … its many well-known sports cars already have their fans in China," said one of the people. "When you look at the product lines of Beijing Auto, I think that's what it wants to add."

Beijing Auto has also received proposals for new joint ventures or even possible acquisitions from other investment bankers but the names of potential foreign partners other than Aston Martin remained unknown, the sources said.

Beijing Auto, the fifth-largest domestic carmaker in terms of sales, already has joint ventures with South Korea's Hyundai and Germany's Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, on the mainland.

Xu Heyi, the chairman of Beijing Auto, said at a forum in Tianjin last month that the company was looking to list its passenger car unit in Hong Kong next year to raise 10 billion yuan (HK$12.4 billion).

Beijing Auto is one of the few major mainland carmakers that is not listed on the stock market.