Geely’s Roundabout Route To The U.S.

THE GIANT CHINESE small carmaker Geely has yet to gain much by way of a toehold in the United States, despite buying Volvo which turned it into a Global Fortune 500 company. Its latest acquisition suggests it may be going the long way around. The privately-owned Hangzhou-based manufacturer has bought a U.K. electric van maker, Emerald Automotive, which plans to start production of its delivery vans in Hazelwood, a suburb to the northwest of St. Louis, Missouri in America’s Mid-West.

Those plans have been moving slowly since first being announced in 2011. The company scrapped its original intention of getting funding from the U.S. government’s ill-starred loan program for green-vehicle development in favor of private investment. Geely says it will put $200 million into developing Emerald’s technology over the next five years, likely sufficient to kickstart production in Hazelwood.

As well as delivery vans in the U.S., Emerald’s technology could also end up in London’s iconic black taxi cabs. Geely bought Manganese Bronze Holdings, the parent company of their manufacturer, The London Taxi Co., out of bankruptcy at the start of last year and restarted production in the English Midlands last autumn. Geely’s chairman, Li Shufu, has said that he had first discussed the idea of electric taxis with London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, as long ago as 2008 when the mayor was visiting the Beijing Olympics.

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