Geely buys US start-up Terrafugia and promises a flying car by 2019

Founder and chairman of Chinese owner of Volvo and Lotus, says the investment reflects “our shared belief in the vision to make the flying car a reality”

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 10:27pm

Zhejiang Geely, the Chinese car manufacture, has completed the acquisition of US start-up Terrafugia, a firm which claims it will create a flying car within the next two years.

Founded in 2006 by five MIT graduates, Boston-based Terrafugia is considered a world-leader in flying-car technology.

Since its creation, the company has delivered several working prototypes, including a model that flies like an aeroplane, but also drives like a car on the ground.

Geely said it aims to deliver its first flying car to the market by 2019, and then launch the world’s first vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or VTOL, by 2023.

The first model, a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a range of 800 kilometres, is expected to cost US$279,000 and will have a 2-seater cabin with folding wings, meaning it can fit in a typical car lane.

“Our investment in the company reflects our shared belief in their vision to make the flying car a reality,” said Li Shufu, Geely’s founder and chairman.

The firm refused to confirm financial details of the acquisition but said it had tripled the number of engineering staff in anticipation of the takeover.

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“The support that Geely has pledged to make Terrafugia’s vision a commercial reality is unprecedented,” said Terrafugia’s newly appointed CEO Chris Jaran, who was most recently managing director of Bell Helicopter.

The Hangzhou-based Geely, which already owns Volvo and Lotus, is the latest firm to join a growing number of companies investing in making flying cars a reality.

Boeing recently bought Aurora Flight Sciences, a specialist in unmanned planes. Google’s Larry Page has invested up to US$100 million in two flying car start-ups, while Uber is developing flying car services in Dubai that it hopes to launch in 2020.

Although it’s still likely to be several years before these types of vehicles become commonplace on our roads and in our skies, industry insiders say good progress is being made towards that goal.

“Although it will take some years for makers of flying cars to achieve commercial success, it makes good sense for Geely to first go in and acquire the know-how as part of its long-term agenda,” said Yale Zhang, managing director of consultancy Automotive Foresight.

The Terrafugia deal has received approval from all relevant regulators including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.