China is the world’s largest auto market, and not many automakers are willing to give up on this “fat meat”. Under the circumstance that the overall environment is becoming more and more unstable, FCA, which has experienced three years of rising and falling, is seeking to regain market exports, and autonomous driving is a good breakthrough.
On February 11, according to foreign media reports, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), one of Detroit’s “big three” automakers, and Chinese startup AutoX recently announced that the two companies will deploy self-driving taxis in China later this year. vehicle. FCA and AutoX said they aimed to launch pilots of robo-taxi services in several Chinese cities, including Shenzhen and Shanghai, in the first half of 2020.
AutoX: China’s first autonomous driving company to break through the road conditions in the downtown areas of first-tier cities
AutoX, a Hong Kong-based startup focused on providing a platform for autonomous vehicles, was founded in 2016 by Xiao Jianxiong, a former Princeton University professor and expert in computer vision and robotics. In September 2019, AutoX announced that it had received US$100 million in Series A financing. This round of financing was led by Dongfeng Motor, with participation from Alibaba and Silicon Valley incubator PlugandPlay, making it one of the largest autonomous driving companies in Asia.
Different from the route of some autonomous driving enterprises, AutoX’s commercialization goal directly points to “capacity”. Xiao Jianxiong, founder of AutoX, once told the media that only cheap transportation capacity can support the rapid development of many industries. Therefore, when choosing the landing scene, AutoX directly refers to the “transportation” link of heavy operation, mainly promoting taxi and cargo transportation services.
In fact, in December 2019, Autox applied to test self-driving cars without a human backup driver in California, the first company to do so since Waymo.
In China, AutoX has carried out large-scale and normalized autonomous driving tests and trial operations in the central area of Shenzhen for more than a year. In September 2019, AutoX also signed a formal cooperation agreement with the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, promising to launch the first batch of 100 driverless taxis for trial operation in Shanghai, so that local residents can achieve driverless taxi commute to get off work. At the same time, AutoX has obtained the only license since the release of Shanghai New Regulations for Autonomous Driving 2.0.
Given AutoX’s fast and strong operational capabilities, AutoX was the obvious choice for FCA looking to export.
Turning the tide, FCA replicates Waymo’s success in Phoenix
FCA reportedly lost $39.6 million in Asian markets in 2019.
Data show that in 2016, GAC FCA (a joint venture between GAC and FCA in China) achieved a high sales volume of nearly 180,000 units, achieving a 260% increase; in 2017, the annual sales reached 222,300 units, a year-on-year increase of 23.6%; but In 2018, GAC FCA stopped its high growth, and its annual sales fell to 125,000 units, a year-on-year decline of 40%. In 2019, the sluggish state of Guangfei Ke continued, with annual sales of 74,000 vehicles, a year-on-year decrease of 40.96%, almost halved, accounting for only 0.35% of the market share in China.
FCA is facing increasing pressure in China. Michael Dunne, chief executive of market analysis firm ZoZoGo, has said that FCA’s main brand, Jeep, has struggled in China because of poor branding and the company’s decision to enter the mainstream market rather than the more robust and stable luxury car market.
In order to achieve growth again, FCA is increasing the number of intelligent driving and new energy vehicle markets. FCA’s Pacifica Grande Dragon is a vehicle built specifically for autonomous driving, and AutoX said AutoX will integrate its self-driving hardware and software into FCA’s Pacifica Grande Dragon’s fleet. And it’s the vehicle of choice for self-driving technology leader Waymo.
Before that, FCA had already reached a cooperation with Waymo, and the two parties signed an order of up to 62,000 Robotaxi units in 2018, which is also the largest order in the field of autonomous driving in the world. In addition, the two parties also launched a fully unmanned (no safety tester) Robotaxi ride-hailing service in Phoenix, USA in October 2019. Judging by Waymo’s operations in Phoenix, it’s a sustainable path that FCA is preparing to replicate with AutoX.
Affected by the epidemic, China’s auto industry is in a semi-stagnant state. At this special moment, unmanned vehicles with the characteristics of no contact and cleanliness may effectively assist in the prevention and control of the epidemic. FCA and AutoX have stated that they aim to launch a pilot robo-taxi service in several Chinese cities, including Shenzhen and Shanghai, in the first half of 2020, which we will continue to monitor.