A joint venture between General Motors, Chinese automaker SAIC, and connected car startup PATEO has filed a formal complaint against Tencent for using illegal, anti-competitive tactics to bully its rivals.

Why it matters: The complaint, currently under review by local authorities, marks the first time Chinese auto players have cited anticompetitive practices in a complaint about domestic tech giants that are fighting for share in the automotive sector.

  • This could lead to another investigation into Tencent over antitrust behaviors amid Beijing’s clampdown on monopolistic practices.

Details: Chinese connected car company PATEO on Tuesday said it has filed a complaint against Tencent, alleging the company pressured automakers to stop using its software which connects smartphones to the in-car system. The app enables users to send and receive messages using WeChat.

  • SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture between General Motors, China’s biggest automaker SAIC, and others, collectively filed the complaint with PATEO.
  • Previously, the in-car service platform had been installed on Baojun RS-3, an entry-level crossover launched in late 2019 by SAIC-GM-Wuling.
  • Tencent in August sent letters to automakers including SAIC-GM-Wuling demanding that they end licensing the software for which there was no legal cause, PATEO said in a company statement. It said that Tencent has used its dominance and market monopoly to snuff out competition.
  • The Xiaomi-based car connectivity startup also said it has sued Tencent for patent infringement, demanding that the Chinese social media and gaming firm pay RMB 80 million (around $12.4 million) for using patented technology in Tencent’s mapping service.
  • Tencent responded on Tuesday in an announcement (in Chinese), saying that the in-car platform gathered private data without authorization from Tencent and users.
  • Tencent had filed a suit in September against PATEO alleging unfair competition and trademark infringement in Shenzhen, the company said.
  • GM did not respond to TechNode’s request for comment.

Context: PATEO is one of the major players of providing car connectivity software backed by a list of Chinese auto and internet giants. It was also reportedly in talks with Tencent’s rival Bytedance in May about a partnership on in-car software.

  • The Shanghai-based startup last year raised a Series B for an undisclosed amount from investors including Nissan’s manufacturing partner Dongfeng Motor and domestic smartphone maker Xiaomi, Chinese media reported.
  • Chinese retail giant Suning, as well as Haier Capital, the investment arm of Chinese electronics and home appliances maker Haier Group, were also among its early investors.

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