Stellantis is in the process of forming a comprehensive strategic partnership with Leapmotor, a Chinese EV company that was established in 2015 and last year sold approximately 111,000 vehicles in its home market.

In a deal announced last week, Stellantis will invest 1.5 billion euros (approximately $1.6 billion) to purchase a 20% stake in Leapmotor. The move will make Stellantis a key shareholder in Leapmotor alongside Shanghai Electric Group and Sequoia Capital.

Stellantis and Leapmotor will also form the joint venture Leapmotor International, of which Stellantis will own a 51% stake. The joint venture will be responsible for the export and sale, as well as production, of Leapmotor vehicles outside of China. The first exports are scheduled for the second half of 2024, with Europe named as the first destination.

Among the first models to be exported will be the Leapmotor C10, an electric crossover that debuted in September at the 2023 Munich auto show.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares (left) and Leapmotor CEO Zhu Jiangming

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares (left) and Leapmotor CEO Zhu Jiangming

Stellantis and Leapmotor said they remain open to exploring further synergies, which could lead to sharing of platforms and joint-development of models—similar to the deal between Volkswagen Group and China's Xpeng that was announced in July.

In announcing the deal with Leapmotor, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said he expects consolidation among Chinese EV brands to unfold in the years ahead and that only a “handful of efficient and agile” players will come to dominate the Chinese market, one of which is Leapmotor, he added.

Tavares also warned earlier this year that European automakers in particular face a tough challenge from Chinese automakers due to lower production costs in China. Unlike the U.S., Europe doesn't place steep tariffs on Chinese-built cars.

Foreign automakers are also losing market share in China, which they once dominated, mostly due to a lack of EV offerings. Chinese car companies accounted for 53% of sales in China in the first half of 2023, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.