Electric vehicle maker WM Motor said it has completed a Series D worth RMB 10 billion (around $1.5 billion), the biggest round of funding closed by a Chinese EV startup.

Why it matters: The investment is co-led by a group of capital funds owned by the Shanghai municipal government including China’s biggest automaker, SAIC. It brings WM Motor’s total funding to more than RMB 33 billion.

  • The investment exceeds those raised by its peers Nio, Xpeng Motors, and Li Auto which raised between RMB 15 billion and RMB 20 billion before going public on US stock markets.
  • WM Motor is also the only carmaker of the “fab four“—promising Chinese EV makers poised to take on Tesla according to a Deutsche Bank analyst—which hasn’t listed publicly.

Details: Apart from the Shanghai government funds and state-owned SAIC, other investors include Chinese internet giant Baidu, SIG Asia Investments, and a number of equity firms owned by regional governments, including those of central Hubei province as well as eastern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, WM Motor said Tuesday.

  • The company did not disclose an updated valuation. WM Motor closed in March 2019 a RMB 3 billion Series C led by Baidu at a valuation of $5 billion.
  • The Covid-19 outbreak had delayed the financing round. WM Motor chief strategy officer Rupert Mitchell in November revealed the company’s plan to secure funding of up to $1 billion in six months.
  • The Shanghai-based EV maker said the capital will be used to speed up the development of vehicle intelligence technologies, expansion in sales channels, and brand enhancement.
  • This was also the first time that SAIC, Volkswagen’s manufacturing partner in China, has invested in an EV startup. The legacy automaker was said to have spent RMB 500 million in the round, according to a Chinese media report earlier this month.  

Context: Founded in 2015 by Volvo China’s former chairman Freeman Shen, WM Motor in 2019 delivered 16,876 units of its first production model, the EX5. The entry-level crossover has a starting price of RMB 146,800. Nio delivered 20,565 units in 2019.

  • WM Motor is reportedly (in Chinese) planning to file for a listing on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market in early 2021, with investment bank China Securities Co., Ltd (CSC) as its underwriter.
  • The five-year-old EV maker revealed plans in September to launch a new model in 2021 with Level 4 parking capabilities, meaning the car is capable of parking with limited human oversight, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers.
  • The vehicle features Qualcomm’s cockpit chipset and incorporates Baidu’s self-driving algorithms, according to the plan.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen