Chinese Startup Electric Vehicle Maker Recruits BMW i8 Executives

A startup electric vehicle maker has recruited BMW i Series executives to move to China.

Benoit Jacob, the designer of the BMW i8 sports car, has left the German automaker to join Future Mobility, an EV startup backed by large Chinese companies. Jacob will be joined at Future Mobility by Dirk Abendroth, who heads the i-Powertrain department and Henrik Wenders, a vice president for product management. All three executives will report to Carsten Breitfeld, the former project manager for the i8, who was named CEO of Future Mobility in February.

Tencent Holdings, known for its social media and online gaming operations, and Foxconn Technology, which makes the iPhone for Apple Inc., are the leading investors in Future Mobility. A third shareholder, China Harmony New Energy Auto Holding Ltd., is an established dealer in luxury cars in the market and brings some automotive expertise to the table.

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Future Mobility plans on basing its research and development in Shenzhen. The company will also have units in Europe and Silicon Valley to focus on powertrain issues and autonomous driving, respectively.

BMW hasn’t confirmed that Jacob has left the company. The news development does illustrate the deep capital outlay needed and available for development of electrified vehicles. Tencent has a market capitalization rating of over $200 billion, and Foxconn’s is around $40 billion. It also shows the market dynamics within a country driven by the government’s push to reduce air pollution in fast-growing cities through generous incentives.