MILAN -- Chinese automaker FAW Group and U.S. startup company Silk EV said they plan to invest up to 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to design, develop and build high performance electric cars in Italy and China. The cars will be styled by Volkswagen Group's former design chief Walter de Silva.
The first model will be the S9 hypercar, shown as a concept model at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show. Three other models are planned – the S7, S5, S3.
The S9 and S7 will be built in Italy, Silk Chairman Jonathan Krane said during an online press conference on Tuesday. He did not give a production start date, nor a target volume.
The joint venture will build cars in a new production center in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, which is also called the "Motor Valley" because Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati are based in this area between Modena and Bologna.
The body of the S9 will be supplied by Emilia-Romagna-based race car specialist Dallara Automobili. Silk EV has located its Italian headquarters in Modena.The EVs will also be built in the Chinese province of Changchun, where FAW’s headquarters are located. Changchun will focus on the production of the S5 and S3 models.
The cars will be sold in China under FAW’s Hongqi S badge. The name of the brand outside China has not been decided yet, according to the Emilia Romagna regional government, which is backing the project.
The location of the Emilia Romagna investment has not been decided yet, said regional council head Stefano Bonaccini. Local authorities said they are ready to support the venture financially, with the possible help of the Italian government.
No FAW executives took part in the press conference on Tuesday. A press release quotes FAW Chairman Xu Liuping saying that the investment is part of China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure development strategy.
The joint venture with Silk EV will help FAW to strengthen its Hongqi brand and will give the automaker a connection with an Italian region renowned for its heritage in luxury car and racing cars, Liuping said in the release.