Volvo Cars and ECARX Form Joint Venture Around Infotainment

Volvo Cars and ECARX will work together to develop and expand infotainment systems across the Geely Auto family of vehicle brands. (Volvo Car Corporation)

Technology partnerships in the automotive space have become commonplace as carmakers and software developers readily collaborate to deliver new mobility and connectivity solutions. The latest example is the joint venture between Volvo Cars and China-based ECARX.

ECARX is an automotive technology company whose core area of development is in-car operation software systems focusing on chip-sets, 4G-powered cockpits, high-definition mapping, intelligent driving, and cloud-based connectivity and data products. Geely Group chairman Li Shufu co-founded the firm. Geely is the parent company of Volvo Cars.

Together, the two companies – Volvo and ECARX – plan to expand the development of Volvo Cars’ existing infotainment system platform found across its model line. Volvo and its performance subsidiary, Polestar, were the first car companies to enable infotainment capabilities through the Android Automotive operating system with built-in Google apps and services. ECARX also has experience with integrating Android-based infotainment systems with third-party brands.

“This joint venture…will start the partnership between ECARX and Volvo Cars, integrating their respective technical advantages to bringing global consumers connected infotainment experiences that lead the industry, and paves the way for further cooperation,” said Ziyu Shen, chief executive officer at ECARX.

Aside from making the infotainment technology more sophisticated and robust, the goal is to utilize this platform for other Geely Group brands. The joint venture would leverage the strengths of both companies to give the wider Geely Group the edge “to speed up technology development, improve cost efficiency and create new revenue streams.” Other Geely-owned companies that stand to benefit from the partnership include Geely Auto, Lynk & Co., Proton, and Zeekr.

“The infotainment system in Volvo’s latest cars is one of the best on the market, rivaling mobile phones in user experience,” says Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. “Through this joint venture, we can…bring high-quality infotainment to more cars and maximize incentives for companies and developers to create great services and apps for the users of the platform.”

The Volvo/ECARX effort draws parallels to a separate but related partnership between Volvo Cars and Geely Auto. That partnership intends to deepen and solidify common future mobility goals, and one of the critical areas of focus is connectivity. Due to the players involved, the two ventures could likely share connective tissue or overlap in their development plans.

The new yet-to-be-named Volvo/ECARX company is currently under final negotiations with ownership split 60/40 in favor of Volvo, giving the Swedish premium automaker controlling interest in the initiative. Jan-Erik Larson, head of R&D in China for Volvo Cars, will head the venture.

Plans call for operations to begin in the third quarter of 2021 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Initially, the company will have approximately 100 employees. That total number will include about 70 software developers and engineers specializing in Android, Linux, and BlackBerry QNX programming.

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