Only four days remaining until the new year 2016 arrives… At least, if you live in a part of the world that uses the Gregorian calendar… In China, the start of their new year will be on “our” 8th of February. Same concept, yet different rules and definitions.
Last week, several media reported that Panda New Energy Co Ltd, the company behind the mega-order for 150,000 SAAB 9-3 based EV’s could be “fake”. On Friday, NEVS President Mattias Bergman already provided further details to prove that the company in fact is alive and kicking, but today Panda’s new CEO Sun Wei spoke out in an interview with Swedish Radio. Who is Panda New Energy and why did they choose NEVS?
Biggest deal- ever: NEVS back on track
Significant international media coverage followed the €10B deal that was announced only 10 days ago (and the highlights of the new business plan, just a few days earlier). With a size of approximately two times the current Swedish annual defence budget, this announcement is one of the largest industrial deals -ever. Keeping in mind that the current leader in the EV market (Tesla) has only produced around 92,500+ cars since they were founded in 2003, the 150,000 + 100,000 EV’s ordered by Panda New Energy puts NEVS in a completely different position, especially when considering that the business plan is based on many more customers, cars and countries.
So, quite impressive news that was celebrated very broadly. A huge cheer of joy sounded on the Christmas breakfast on Stallbacka amongst the NEVS workers on the morning of the announcement. Sweden’s minister of Economic Affairs Mikael Damberg went on record to express his support, and so did the Chinese-Swedish Trade Council, leading automotive manufacturing experts, and many, many more.
Wrong address = fake?
The day following the announcement, the first sceptical articles started to appear in the media. Maybe “sceptical” isn’t the most appropriate term to use here. “Suspicious”, “negative”, “denying” or even “accusing” possibly fit better. Some authors started their own conspiracy theory by suggesting that the founder of NEVS, Karl-Johan Jiang was also behind Panda New Energy, something that was later explicitly denied to Saabblog.net by NEVS PR director Mikael Östlund. Several other media were however suggesting that both the company Panda (and therefore the deal itself) might be fake as there very little information could be found on the Internet and initial inquiries about Panda were pointing to an incorrect address in Beijing. Both Mattias Bergman and Panda’s Sun Wei reconfirmed now that the company is real and is in fact backed by parent company Huaxin (a large Chinese investment firm founded in 2001, with significant stakes in several publicly listed companies and partnerships with companies like Morgan Stanley, Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent).
Given the size of the deal alone, digging deeper to understand the ins- and outs is something any journalist in the automotive industry and in Swedish/Chinese business would be expected to do. I was quite fascinated however how quickly conclusions were drawn: “the fact that the company was registered only very recently, combined with an incorrect address and very little info on the Internet, just had to mean that it was all a scam”- according to some media. A rather hasty -and incorrect- conclusion as it now appears: the company does exist, is legitimate and has a strong financial foundation. I can sympathize with the sceptics to some extent, as things initially weren’t presented as clearly and coherently as they now start to become. And yes, we do need more details and even more proof of actual delivery on promises is also very welcome, but what I would ask is to stay open-minded and think differently. What is considered to be normal in Europe or in the US may be very different in China, but still be good business.
Happy New Year!
Interview Swedish Radio with Panda New Energy (translation of the original article published 26 Dec 2015)
The Beijing based newly founded company Panda New Energy is aiming to have the first pilot electric vehicles (EV’s) from NEVS in Trollhättan on the road in China in 2016. But time is limited for the newly founded company that is trying to establish itself in a niche on the Chinese fast-growing car rental market, according to Panda New Energy in an exclusive interview with Ekot today.
Sun Wei is the CEO of the car rental company Panda New Energy. It is the same company that has chosen SAAB’s successor NEVS as one of its suppliers for electric cars. -There is a time window, a few things we can wait with, but with other things we cannot, says Sun Wei, CEO Panda New Energy.
The EV’s will be a part of a new company that will deliver cars and chauffeur services to the new IT-based taxi- and transportation market that is growing very rapidly, and where the competition is strong.
The company’s CEO is coming from finance and investment company Huaxin. Huaxin is now confirmed to financially back the mega-order for 150,000 EV’s that was announced on 17 December.
The EV-market is expected to benefit greatly through favourable terms and subsidies by the central Chinese government. Panda is planning to establish itself in the cities in China where the local authorities are already providing favourable terms.
The reason why NEVS was selected according to Panda’s CEO is that they are relying on SAAB’s reputation as a safe car, compared to other car companies in China. He describes the collaboration with NEVS as intimate and is aiming to keep costs down.
-It’s really important that with these partnership rights, cost control can be achieved, says Sun Wei.
He is showing a receipt of the down payment, equivalent to the amount of SEK 100M, that already has been paid to NEVS ahead of the first EV deliveries.
-One or two billion is really no issue for Panda and Huaxin, says Sun Wei, while the rest of the capital will be coming from partners and investment funds.
The carpet on the floor of the investment company Huaxin’s office is soft and the green plants are well kept. The fact that Panda signed the noteworthy SEK 100B order with an incorrect address in a shared office location in a Beijing suburb is explained by Panda’s CEO that there was little time to get the official registration done and a location in the new industrial development zone was given.
-We have discussed with the people who performed the registration that this isn’t what we want, said Panda New Energy’s CEO Sun Wei.