If Germany’s carmakers want to make new inroads into China, they’re going to need some local help. That may be the tacit admission behind a decision to bring Asian investors on board their satellite navigation venture HERE.
The mapping service owned by Audi, BMW and Daimler on Tuesday announced that three new investors – Chinese mapping service NavInfo, Chinese internet firm Tencent and Singapore’s state fund GIC – will take a 10-percent stake in the company. The German carmakers will be cutting their own stakes accordingly.
HERE also announced that it would be launching a joint mapping venture in China together with NavInfo. The plan, which still has to be approved by China’s regulatory authorities, includes creating navigation systems for the kinds of self-driving cars that carmakers around the world see as the next major frontier for the industry.
Daimler, Audi and BMW bought HERE last year for €2.8 billion from Nokia in a bid to create a rival to U.S. navigation systems and keep the technology out of the hands of the likes of Google, Apple, TomTom and other tech giants.
The new venture announced Tuesday is not a complete surprise: HERE’s chief executive in August told Handelsblatt that the company was looking for new investors that could help it push into the self-driving car market.
The service is already active in some 200 countries but has yet to break into China, where foreign companies are more limited in what they can do without the help of local partners.
The statement Tuesday did not say how much the Asian investors would be paying for their new stake, which they hope to finalize in the first half of next year.
Christopher Cermak is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: email@example.com