Fu Qiang, 50, has left Volvo China Sales Co as former president and CEO and is joining Zhejiang Aiche Internet Intelligent Electric Vehicle Co, which is financially backed by a major investor that has recently been luring many Chinese auto executives to its ventures.
Zhejiang Aiche is an economy electric carmaker established by Henan Harmony Automobile Trading Co, a Chinese car dealer group, and Harmony Futeng Internet and Intelligent Electric Vehicle Co. Zhejiang Aiche has registered capital of 550 million yuan ($83.7 million).
Harmony Futeng is one of several major investors in Future Mobility Corp, another internet electric carmarker. Future Mobility has in recent months hired a slew of industry heavyweights, including Carsten Breitfeld, former vice-president of the BMW Group and head of BMW's i8 program, as well as Daniel Kirchert, former head of Infiniti's operations in China and of Dongfeng Infiniti.
Zhou Xin, deputy general manager of Allydata Technology, is bullish about the future of the sector.
"There will be a huge market and potential for profitability in the emerging market of connected NEVs. Currently, all of the technology, software, hardware and products are not fully developed. The industry is expecting new technologies and patents."
Several Chinese companies have recently unveiled their connected electric car concepts, including LeEco's LeSEE, Pateo's Project N and BAIC's Arcfox-7, though none are being mass produced. Through the first four months, 66,444 electric vehicles were sold in China.
Zhou said he is expecting more and more Chinese companies to work together in the research and development of connected vehicles.
"More old hands are going to work together and we will see more integration in the industrial chain. The emerging market is creating opportunities for every player."
At least one Chinese industry expert, Jia Xinguang, senior analyst with the China Automobile Dealers Association, is bearish about the NEV sector and said he does not see a plethora of business opportunities.
"The current NEV makers are burning through money. There's no possibility of making profits in the next five to 10 years. Tesla is an example. Despite rising productivity, the company is still suffering great losses."
Tesla reported a $282 million loss in the first quarter this year.
Fisker Automotive, once Tesla's rival in the United States, went bankrupt in 2013 and was renamed as Karma Automotive after it was purchased by Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group. Karma has yet to launch a new product.
Jia also stressed it won't be easy for new automakers to obtain an NEV manufacturing qualification without much experience in the industry. Chinese authorities require years of vehicle manufacturing experience, research and development, and a mastering of major techniques.
Pateo Corp Founder and Chairman of Ken Ying agreed.
"The car manufacturing is a high entry threshold industry. Barriers exist in many perspectives including safety, legal, brand, asset utilization and long-term strategy."
Shanghai-based Pateo Corp unveiled its concept car Project N at Auto Shanghai 2015 but halted the project last month, despite strong interest from several investors.
Over the past 12 months, he said it's been hard to find a complementary carmaking partner. Pateo rerouted its strategy to penetrate into the telematics field. It is a leading infotainment supplier, in terms of market share, and is providing software and hardware to major carmakers, including SAIC Motors.
"I've been in the industry for 17 years. ... It's not bad to cool down a bit for us, while the sector is overheated," Ying said.