It is not the world of cold chains and refrigerators that led Lee Shufu to global success. In fact, it was the automobile that made this local businessman from Taijhou (Middle East China) one of the most influential officials on the planet right now.
It was in 1997 that this son of rice farmers started producing cars, making the first models for Gili Auto and the Chinese market. The manufacturer is developing its business at an alarming pace. In 2002, it was ranked among the top 10 companies in the country (in terms of domestic trade) and in 2005, it made a sensational debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Alliances with European companies as growth engines
A prophet in his country as well as in some parts of Southeast Asia, Gili already wants more. Founder Eric Lee’s eyes then turned to the West, especially to Europe, where he hoped to slowly but surely expand his hunting grounds.
It all started in the late 2000’s Speaking to Ford’s CEO, he suggested buying the next Volvo, as one of his brands was in bad shape. The contract was officially terminated in 2010. The Swedish firm moved from the American flag to the Chinese fold for 1.3 billion euros, four times less than the amount invested by the giant in the Blue Oval 11 years ago. A very nice catch, therefore, for Eric Lee.
Gilly has seen his international wings grow since this takeover. “The merger with Volvo was a decisive step in Gili’s development.”Says Peter Wells, a researcher in the automotive industry at Cardiff University.
Creating Lotus and Link & Company from Volvo to Smart
Jelly is now the majority shareholder of Volvo, which has become its premium badge of reference, but also of Polyester, its high-performance division. The appetite of the Chinese buyer is clearly unsatisfied. For six years, he has held a 70% stake in Lynk & Co, a disruptive autonomous brand that he co-founded with Volvo Cars. Lynk & Co marketed electrified models (for example, Lynk & Co 01 rechargeable hybrid, landed in France in late 2021) only on the Internet or in “clubs” and invented rental formulas that encouraged car sharing.
Since 2017, he has also owned the Lotus of the legendary British sports car team, whose sales he wants to multiply by ten in the coming years and revolutionize DNA by opening its catalog in more mainstream segments.
Finally, 50% of the Chinese aggregate is committed to a joint venture with German Daimler. 2022 Purpose: To relaunch the Smart brand, the first common model is a 100% electric SUV named Smart # 1, manufactured in China, which will probably leave the factory by the end of the year or early 2023.
Geely works as a fine chess player, from asphalt to space
Encouraged by the good results of the turnover of 14.2 billion euros in 2021 (+ 10% compared to 2020) achieved in the punitive context of the covid and semiconductor crisis, Gilly now looks even more victorious than before. In particular, it continues to keep up with the manufacturers of the old continent, always through them, either directly on European soil or through their bases located abroad. In early spring, he entered the capital of Renault Korea Motors, Renault’s South Korean subsidiary, up 34%.
Geely, or more precisely, Zhejiang Geely Holding, recently distanced itself by forming a joint venture with a German helicopter to closely support a flying taxi project.
Wanting to see the world from above is really hard and serious for 58-year-old and multi-billionaire Eric Lee. The Hangzhou-based industry group has confirmed its dream of playing a major role in space, somewhat like Tesla of California. In early June, Gili succeeded in launching the first nine satellites (between 200 and 250 long-term plans) into low Earth orbit, with the aim of improving the navigation and autonomous driving performance of its vehicles.
According to Gilly, “no car brand can claim to go it alone.”
Faced with this impressive and realistic development, some automotive sector analysts believe that it is still difficult to gauge the extent of Gili’s future expansion because most of the companies that Eric Lee has placed bets on have failed to deliver on their full potential.
One thing is for sure, the brave Chinese dragon seems to be evolving at its leisure, surfing trends and focusing its global strategy on electrification and autonomous vehicles among other things, also exploring new methods of acquisition, while relying on an interdependence. Its subsidiaries, which it has established or exploited. “We are confident that only through large-scale projects and resource mobilization can we design better products for the end user.”Gani’s current CEO, Daniel Lee, said at an event in Germany a few days ago that “ No autonomous brand can claim to advance alone in this new age of ultimate technological rise. A