Aion, the electric vehicle unit of Chinese automaker GAC, said on Thursday that it has raised RMB 18.3 billion ($2.53 billion) in Series A from a group of strategic investors, the latest boost to the company’s ongoing transition into an electric automotive powerhouse.

Why it matters: The funding round gives the Guangzhou-based upstart a whopping valuation of RMB 103.3 billion, making it China’s biggest private, venture capital-backed EV maker. Aion also expects to gain more advantages in the EV supply chain with new backers ranging from battery resources to chip manufacturing firms.

Details: Among a group of 53 strategic investors in the latest financing round were Ganfeng Lithium, China’s biggest lithium compounds producer, and China Fortune-Tech Capital, an investment arm of top Chinese chipmaker SMIC, Aion said in a statement (in Chinese).

  • Other prominent investors include a national fund for structural adjustment of state-owned enterprises, as well as Guangzhou Industrial Investment and Capital Operation Holding Group.
  • As Toyota’s and Honda’s manufacturing partner in China, GAC is still the biggest shareholder of Aion with a 76.9% stake, while the new investors from Series A jointly acquired a 17.7% stake in the EV maker.
  • Aion said it would use the proceeds to fund the in-house development of new models, batteries, and other key components, adding that the investment would also help provide a stable supply of raw materials and car chips.
  • The company will kick off its Series B fundraising process by year-end and look to sell shares publicly as early as 2023, Chinese financial media outlet Caixin reported on Sept. 6, citing company executives.

Context: Aion is China’s fifth biggest EV maker, with sales more than doubling annually to 182,321 cars in the first nine months of this year, which gave it a 4.8% market share, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association.

  • The GAC subsidiary said on Oct. 12 that its second auto manufacturing plant in Guangzhou had started operation, boosting its car production capacity in the country to more than 400,000 units annually.
  • Feng Xingya, GAC’s general manager, confirmed the company’s goal of delivering 300,000 Aion-branded vehicles this year, citing delivery times of around two months to customers, Caixin reported on Friday.
  • Chinese auto majors, including Dongfeng, Changan, and Geely, have all sought external investors’ support and accelerated their listing plans for their cash-bleeding EV projects in the face of recent economic challenges.
  • BYD is the dominant leader in the Chinese EV market, holding 29.7%. The firm is followed by SAIC-GM-Wuling, Tesla, and Geely, with shares of 8.4%, 8.2%, and 5.3%, respectively, CPCA figures show.

Jill Shen

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