BMW loses electric-car staff to Chinese startup, says it's unaffected


2017 BMW i3

2017 BMW i3

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It seems that China is fast becoming a breeding ground for startups planning new electric cars.

Many have been inspired by Tesla Motors, and hope to follow in the Silicon Valley company's tire tracks by offering products radically different from those of established automakers.

Now one Chinese company has poached an employee team from an established carmaker that has launched innovative electric cars of its own.

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Future Mobility Corp. recently hired four people away from BMW, all of whom had worked in the company's "i" division.

BMW believes it still has adequate staff to continue its electric-car development projects, according to Reuters.

Not all of the four were working on "i"-related projects at the time they left, CEO Harald Kruger told analysts during a recent quarterly earnings call.

2016 BMW i8

2016 BMW i8

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Future Mobility is backed by Chinese tech firm Tencent Holdings, maker of the popular Chinese chat app WeChat.

The company had previously hired staffers away from Daimler, Tesla, and Google's self-driving car project.

Daniel Kirchert, Future Mobility's COO, previously headed Nissan's Infiniti luxury brand in China.

ALSO SEE: Faraday Future's backer shows another electric luxury sedan

Future Mobility reportedly plans to sell cars in China, Europe, and the U.S., but hasn't announced when it plans to start production.

It also hasn't revealed any details about its future models, although they will likely emphasize connectivity and autonomous-driving technology.

Future Mobility patron Tencent is far from the only Chinese tech company looking to build a highly-connected autonomous electric car, though.

2017 BMW i3

2017 BMW i3

Enlarge Photo

LeEco is backing U.S. startup Faraday Future, and also showed a concept car of its own called the LeSee at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show.

Known as "China's Netflix," the company is owned by billionaire Jia Yueting, who believes cars can be an important platform for LeEco's streaming services.

Another potential player is NextEV, whose founder William Li previously ran a service that provided pricing data to Chinese car dealers.

MORE: Another aspiring Chinese Tesla: NextEV and its founder William Li

Like Future Mobility and LeEco, NextEV plans to emphasize connectivity as much as—or even more than—the driving experience.

It's worth noting that all of these companies face an uphill battle; Tesla's success is definitely the exception when it comes to automotive startups.

But for now, China's booming electric-car market, the optimism of its tech industry, and some strategic hirings, are sustaining these newcomers.

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