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Aston Martin to develop electric car with China's LeEco

* Electric car to be based on Aston Martin’s Rapide S model

* LeEco manager says can develop future vehicles for both

* China’s government promotes electric vehicles

(Adds comments from LeEco about Aston Martin joint venture)

By Edward Taylor

FRANKFURT, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Aston Martin set up a venture
with Chinese consumer electronics group LeEco to
jointly develop the British luxury car brand’s first electric
vehicle, an example of the deepening ties between the technology
and automotive industries.

Companies like Alphabet (Xetra: ABEA.DEnews) and LeEco are developing
automotive expertise because they want to broaden their reach
beyond computers and cellphones into cars, while automakers want
Internet connectivity to give drivers live traffic updates and
infotainment.

Aston Martin and LeEco said they plan to develop an electric
car based on the British automaker’s Rapide S model, before
developing other potential electric vehicles, including for
LeEco. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“It brings Aston Martin’s electric car project forward,”
Aston Martin Chief Executive Andy Palmer said at a news
conference in Frankfurt, adding it would come to market in 2018,
and be built in Gaydon, England.

LeEco, a consumer electronics company which offers branded
content via the Internet, television set top boxes and
smartphones, hopes to use its captive audience and celebrity
endorsements to promote cars in future.

“In China we have around 300 million people who visit our
website. We could advertise the Aston Martin for free. And we
can use celebrities to promote our vehicle. This is the way we
do business,” said Lei Ding, co-founder of LeEco’s auto
division. He previously held senior positions at joint ventures
of Volkswagen (Other OTC: VLKPYnews) and General Motors (NYSE: GMnews) in China,
said.

The electric car development platform by Aston and LeEco
could also be used by Faraday Future, a start-up electric car
firm backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the companies
said.

“Aston can offer expertise in ride, handling refinement and
those sorts of things,” Palmer said.

China’s government is promoting electric vehicles to cut the
smog that frequently envelops its cities, which officials say
helped sales quadruple last year and has turned China into the
world’s biggest market.

An electric car joint venture of Taiwan (Taiwan OTC: 6549.TWOnews) ‘s Hon Hai,
China’s Tencent (HKSE: 0700-OL.HKnews) and China Harmony Auto Holding
said this month it was hiring former BMW (Swiss: BMW.SWnews)
executive Carsten Breitfeld to lead it.

Harmony Futeng, launched last March, is one of several
Chinese tech companies trying to develop “smart” and electric
vehicles. These include Alibaba, Baidu (Xetra: A0F5DEnews) and
Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing, recently
rebranded as LeEco.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Writing by Ludwig Burger, Georgina
Prodhan and Edward Taylor; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Susan
Fenton)

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