Daily DripFuture

Tech News Chatter: More Tiny Cars; Musical.ly Acquired by Toutiao Parent


Oh brave new world, that has such tiny cars in it!

China’s sizing up of the Electronic Vehicle (EV) industry continues apace, with the most recent headline-grabbing deal formalized days ago. Following up on a partnership made in July between German automaker Daimler and Chinese brand BAIC to invest $735 million into EV infrastructure in China, Ford has now entered the fray with their own joint venture, a 50/50 partnership with Chinese manufacturer Zotye (that’s their E200 pictured above) “for a combined investment of $756 million to produce electric cars.”

Engadget reports:

Once the Chinese government approves the deal, the enterprise will build a manufacturing facility in the Zhejiang province to produce EVs under its new brand, Zotye Ford. As CNET points out, both parent companies signed an agreement back in August that paved the way for this partnership. “Zotye Ford will introduce a new brand family of small all-electric vehicles,” Ford group VP Peter Fleet said in the statement. “We will be exploring innovative vehicle connectivity and mobility service solutions for a new generation of young city-dwelling Chinese customers.”

China is hastening not only the development of tiny electric cars, but also an app service infrastructure with which to most efficiently distribute them. One pioneering Chinese car share app, TOGO, raised $22 million last month, and last week announced a major upgrade to its app and fleet, according to China Daily.

And they may soon face stiff competition from one of China’s hottest rising Internet-of-Things brands: Mobike. Caixin reports on a planned expansion by the dockless bike share app into four-wheel territory:

Mobike is partnering with electric car-maker Xinte Electric to launch a fleet of shared automobiles, which the duo is dubbing Mocars, according to media reports. A Mobike representative would not confirm the deal but said the company is seeking to explore “innovative business models” with many partners, including with Xinte, to move beyond its core bike-sharing business.


Watch: How China is Strategizing its All-In Move to Electric Cars

One last bit of news: The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that China-born, US-focused lip syncing and live-streaming app Musical.ly  has just been acquired by ByteDance, the parent company of red-hot Chinese news aggregator Toutiao, for between $800 million and $1 billion.

If you’re unfamiliar with Musical.ly, it’s one of a few apps — along with chief competitor Live.me — aiming to bring China-style live-streaming and short-video culture to US shores:

Will Live.me Bring China-Style Live-Streaming to the US?

News of the acquisition comes less than two months after Toutiao, which is valued at around $22 billion, launched their own app, Tik Tok, as a global competitor to Musical.ly. Seems they’ve now decided to buy rather than fight.

Many industry watchers consider Toutiao, famous for its innovative brand of AI-curated (and sometimes AI-authored) news content, to be a giant-in-the-making that will eventually rise to the scale of China’s big-three BAT tech companies (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent). Their purchase of Musical.ly — and attempted purchase of Reddit last year — signal committed, global ambitions, which we’ll continue watching with interest.

Cover image: Zotye E200

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a US-based writer and musician, and RADII's former Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, MIT Technology Review, Artsy, Bandcamp Daily and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.

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