Zhejiang Geely Holding Group has started manufacturing satellites to create a high-precision navigation network that will guide self-driving cars.
Mass production has begun in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, marking an entry by China’s largest privately owned automaker into a field long dominated by the military.
The satellites were independently developed by Geely group company Geespace, with manufacturing also handled by a group member.
Greely’s manufacturing know-how will be applied to build different types of satellites. Annual production is targeted at 500 units.
Geely plans to create a network of low earth orbit satellites that will send precise positioning information to self-driving cars.
China’s space industry has close ties to the People’s Liberation Army. Manufacturing satellites had previously been the domain of enterprises affiliated with the military.
But US private sector companies have made significant strides in the space business, especially when it comes to collaborations with the automotive industry. Against this backdrop, Geely apparently saw entering the satellite business as a must for expanding its global automobile operation.
Geely founder and chairman Li Shufu also serves in China’s National People’s Congress. Li is considered close to Chinese President Xi Jinping, since Geely is headquartered in Zhejiang Province, where Xi once served as party secretary. Private sector enterprises have lately been making investments in sectors previously off-limits, such as nuclear energy.