Chinese automaker Geely has taken a ‎€50 million (around $55 million) stake in German flying taxi startup Volocopter, leading the Series C round in a move which increases its presence in Europe while diversifying its mobility portfolio.

Why it matters: Geely, the holding company based in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, already owns Swedish manufacturer Volvo and British sports carmaker Lotus. The Chinese company bought a $9 billion stake in Mercedes Benz-owner Daimler last year.

  • Traditional automakers are rethinking their approach to transportation as the market slows. Geely hopes to reimagine itself as a mobility company rather than just a car maker.
  • Geely recently bought a 50% share of Daimler’s Smart brand with plans to bring manufacturing of the micro-sized models to China.

Details: Volocopter aims to use the funding to commercialize its VoloCity air taxi within three years.

  • Aside from the investment, Geely plans to set up a joint venture with Volocopter to bring the flying taxis to China.
  • Volocopter has built three generations of its aircraft, with two awarded licenses for manned and unmanned flights.
  • The round makes Geely a minority investor in the air taxi firm. The European company’s founders together remain its largest shareholder.
  • Volocopter said in a statement that it plans a second closing of the C-round by the end of the year and that it is already in discussions with possible investors.

“Urban mobility needs to evolve in the next few years to meet rising demand … This funding round is allowing us to take great strides towards bringing Urban Air Mobility to life whilst being respectful of our shareholder’s money.” 

—Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, in a statement

Context: Ehang, a Chinese startup looking to commercialize flying taxis, hopes to be the first to launch its vehicles in China.

  • Last month, the company announced a pilot project in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou to run three to four flight routes for passengers.
  • Geely’s investment in Volocopter isn’t its first in flying vehicles. In 2017, the company bought US-based Terrafugia, which at the time claimed it would bring a flying car to market by 2019.
  • Nonetheless, these companies face regulatory challenges as well as public concerns over safety.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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