Chinese online entertainment company LeTV inks tech deal with Aston Martin

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 11:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 11:46am

British luxury sports car maker and James Bond favourite Aston Martin has announced a partnership with a major Chinese entertainment company.

At the ongoing International Automobile & Manufacturing Technology Exhibition in Shanghai on Monday, Aston Martin Chief Executive Andy Palmer said the company's deal with online video giant LeTV was designed to "connect British craftmanship with the very latest in Chinese technology".

Details of the deal are scarce, but would likely see LeTV provide in-car entertainment systems for new Aston Martin models. In March, the Chinese company announced it had inked a similar partnership with state-owned BAIC Motor to make user interfaces and internet-connected screens for the automaker's upcoming line of electric and energy efficient vehicles.

"The partnership between LeTV and Aston Martin marks a new step of LeTV's globalisation strategy," Jia Yueting, chief executive of LeTV, said in a statement.

This month, LeTV announced its first smartphone, taking direct aim at Apple and local competitor Xiaomi and vowing to break what it called "monopolies" in the smart devices sector.

The company has also revealed plans to directly manufacture its own electric car range, opening a Silicon Valley-based research and development centre to focus on the project.

The move was greeted with some scepticism by potential domestic rivals. Wang Chuanfu, chairman of Chinese electric car maker BYD, described internet companies' moves to make cars as "nothing but a joke".

LeTV would be Aston Martin's second major partnership with a Chinese technology firm. In 2014, Beijing-based solar-panel maker Hanergy began working with the automaker to provide solar panels for its sports car range.

Collaboration with Chinese companies is part of a strategy to improve Aston Martin's fortunes in China, where it has struggled to gain market share in recent years, according to Palmer.

“If you have a vehicle coming out that needs to appeal to Chinese customers, then we need to understand what kind of tech is being used,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

The company is seeking to increase sales in China from around 250 to more than 500 cars annually over the next six years, adding an additional five dealerships to its existing 15, Michael Peng, head of Aston Martin China, told the newspaper.