Chinese Auto Giant to Open Development Center in Israel

A top Chinese automobile manufacturer is slated to open a research and development center in Israel, Globes reported Sunday.

Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) said that it will establish an R&D center in Israel focusing on “electrical propulsion, data networks, car sharing, and smart automated propulsion.”

The company, which already has an advance team in Israel, is set to increase its presence to 50 employees. The R&D center is expected to be located at the new headquarters for the Lubinski Group in Rishon LeZion, just south of Tel Aviv. Lubinski has been the official importer SAIC vehicles to Israel, where it has sold several thousand units to date.

SAIC is one of China’s top four automotive manufacturers and sells an estimated 5 million vehicles annually. In a statement announcing the R&D center, SAIC praised Israeli culture and acknowledged the country’s tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship. It also lauded Israel for having one of the highest per capita concentrations of engineers and scientists.

Under its five-year plan, the Chinese government is encouraging auto manufacturers to develop environmentally-friendly propulsion systems and smart cars. SAIC’s expansion in Israel is part of a broader trend of Chinese auto manufacturers investing in and buying Western automotive companies to boost their own technological prowess and improve domestically produced vehicles.

Volvo, which is owned by Chinese auto manufacturer Geely, opened an innovation center with Honda in Israel earlier this month. Globes reported in December that car manufacturer Qoros, which is jointly owned by China’s Chery and Israel’s Kenon Holdings, is planning to open an R&D center in Israel for smart electric vehicles.

With Jerusalem-based Mobileye, Israel is also at the forefront of efforts to develop driverless vehicles.

[Photo: Zhongyu Tao / Flickr ]