By on April 27, 2020

World leaders like to travel in comfort, security, and style — which is why you never see presidential motorcades formed around a Nissan Versa. Instead, security details crowd around something big, black, and closely tied to a domestic nameplate if the nation in question has such a manufacturer. In China, the preferred choice among high-ranking government officials has been FAW Group’s Hongqi luxury brand. Translated into English, the name means “Red Flag” and it’s the pride of China, even though the bulk of FAW’s premium models are a redux of various automotive products produced by foreign manufacturers.

That includes Hongqi’s first vehicle, the CA72. Launched in 1958 as a model exclusive to state institutions and the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the CA72 was basically a 1955 Chrysler sedan with a different grille. While that model line has had its own evolution, subsequent FAW products from the modern era benefited from joint partnerships with automakers like Mazda, General Motors, Toyota, and Audi.

A new joint venture specifically targeting Hongqi is now underway, and its a curious one. An American electric vehicle startup named SilkEV is apparently teaming up with the brand that symbolizes the CCP to produce high-end performance cars, and they’re spending a bundle to do so. 

Considering Hongqi is known for manufacturing luxury products, zippy EVs are a step out of its comfort zone. However, Reuters reports the duo plans to invest 10 billion yuan ($1.41 billion USD) to make electric sports cars under the Red Flag marquee:

Silk EV on Monday told Reuters it has signed a memorandum of understanding with FAW to launch a joint venture in the state-owned automaker’s hometown of Changchun, northern China, to make cars it has dubbed the S-series.

The plan was first reported on Friday by state media CCTV and Xinhua. FAW confirmed the CCTV report to Reuters.

S-series, eh? Sounds like Hongqi’s habit of borrowing from other nameplates hasn’t abated. But at least it’s getting more creative. Besides, there are plenty of non-Chinese automakers that have been trying to parody the German way of doing things for years (cough, Cadillac) instead of evolving their existing modus operandi.

While Silk EV’s status as an LLC officially makes it an American company based in New York City, it has offices in China and Italy, with the brunt of its engineering and design work focused on the former market. What that all entails remains hazy. Its website describes it as complete auto solutions provider (provided they’re electric) with “an elite team of engineers.” No examples were provided for either, and this is the first we’ve heard of the firm.

Cursory research shows Silk’s head of U.S. operations, Justin Krane, previously worked as legal council for Trella Urban Forestry Technology LLC (where he’s still employed). He was also quoted in a press release last year when Acorn International promoted the company in China. Other than the address for his law office matching the address given for the automotive business, that’s about all we’re likely to learn until Silk EV responds for comment.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media says FAW plans to broaden Hongqi appeal and double its annual sales to 200,000 units by the end of 2020. While the pandemic may upend those plans for growth, the overall strategy involves increasing its lineup of 10 models to 21 by 2025.

The first product Silk EV is likely to lay its hands on is the Hongqi S9 (below) — a 1,400 hp hypercar that debuted (in concept form) at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show and looks a bit like the McLaren Senna. FAW Group chairman Xu Liuping said the S9 will be capable of 62 mph in under 2 seconds thanks to its “V8T hybrid power system” (presumably a turbocharged V8 helped by small electric motors). The car is also supposed to boast a top speed of 250 mph, a maximum range of 373 miles, all while still being incredibly comfortable, sharp, and a bunch of other stuff that makes it sound too good to be true.

[Images: VanderWolf Images/Shutterstock; moonfish8/Shutterstock]

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32 Comments on “Strange Bedfellows: American EV Company Partners With China’s Hongqi...”

  • avatar

    uh…… the new model going to be called “Ritz”?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    April 1st was weeks ago.

  • avatar

    Any chance of it being built here? Hahaha! As it says in my dating profile, I love to laugh.

  • avatar

    “Launched in 1958”

    Ho Lee Fuk, it hasn’t changed a bit

    • 0 avatar

      As the Hongqi S9 runs down the straightaway and the speedometer passes 200 MPH:

      Driver: Sum ting wong!
      Copilot: We too fas!
      (car shakes, sparks fly a la DeLorean time machine, tires fling rubber all over, paint peels off, coolant and oil spray onto the track)
      Driver: Sum ting wong!
      Both: Ding, bang, ow!

      (With apologies to all, especially to the creative prankster who famously got this past the newsroom and onto the TV airwaves, only to be plagiarized by clowns like me.)

    • 0 avatar

      They reserved the upgrades for the interior.

      Seriously though, this is what a retro style vehicle should look like. Classy on the outside, sleek and modern inside. Imagine if the Thunderbird was done this well.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Typically the Chinese JV partner gets with someone to steal their Intellectual Property. As this is an E.V. Startup however, it is likely there actually is no IP to steal.

  • avatar

    my license plates will be MOFO

  • avatar

    First Red Flag limousine was “inspired” by Continental II from Ford.

    And then my common sense told me that “Silk” cannot be American company. No American in his right mind will call any company “Silk” let alone auto company. Silk is not American thing. Chinese? You bet. E.g. “Silk Road” instead of Freeway or autobahn. “Free” is an American word, “Silk” or “Ban” not that much. See my point? That Silk is the cover for PLA to steal technology from USA. I am sure they have something like that in Germany too.

    • 0 avatar

      I smell money laundering, shell corporations, a fall guy attorney (who works for a company whose initials are TUFT), and a host of other financial cloak-and-daggerishness.
      So sit back and watch, everyone, as something or other eventually hits a very large fan, with denials of malfeasance all over the place, a few international arrest warrants and nationalistic finger-pointing to top it all off.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Hongqi (is that “honkey”?) could teach Tesla how to paint a car, I’ll give them that.

  • avatar

    That limo looks like a giant Vega with a chromier grille.

  • avatar

    China = Evil empire.
    Belt and Road Initiative.
    Spralty Islands.
    Stealing IP.
    Current China Plague.
    and so forth

    Evil Evil place. Why did our scum bag politicians give them our manufacturing base with out any performance milestones. IE
    We ll give you WTO membership if your have elcetions.
    We LL give you Most Favored Nations status if you reduce pollution to X levels.
    And so forth.

    PS- I thought our MFG base has been pretty steady since 2000 or so. No. The collapse continues. US mfg employment in 2000- 17 million
    2020 ? 10 million

    I d say 50% of our mfg base are ZOMBIE companies. Lights are on. Cars are in the parking lot, but the firm is dead. No pay raises. One guy leaves- he doesnt get replaced.
    Hell, I sell capital equipment to heavy mfg plants. I showed 1 mid size firm my equipment that would improve plant eff and have a payback of 6 months -6 MONTHS. The senior manager told me. “I cant.” “I dont have any money.” This company could have bought my Equipment for
    0.5% of its yearly sales.

    The company doesnt or cant put aside 1% of sales for plant improvement. 1% . One example of many.

    This tells you all the money has been striped out of MFG and it is DEAD.

    Thx China, but even more to our scumbag politicians who allowed this destruction of our manufacturing base and build up of a military foe- China (who do you think builds up North Korea and downstream Iran.)

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree. The scumbag politicians are just doing the bidding of voters who buy the cheapest product no matter where it is made. Wanna make a difference? Don’t buy $hit you don’t really need, and when you do buy stuff, buy American whenever possible. In the long run you’ll have less stuff to send to the landfill (absolutely nobody wants your plastic chinese trinkets) of when your kids move out, have spent the same amount, supported your neighbors’ jobs, and lessened the contaminant burden shipped over in container boats.

      • 0 avatar

        This. 100% this.

        20 years ago, I bought a Flexsteel sofa–the Chicago. Phenomenal piece. But, with family and overuse it wore out and we went a different direction. A few years later I wanted another one.

        Well, tough TTs. Sure, they make the Chicago–but in the meantime Flexsteel had moved much of their mfg to China. And along the way, the Chicago became sized for Chinese people.

        I gave up on Flexsteel. Now I have a house full of Amish furniture, made to my specifications. GASP! Custom furniture? Who’d’a thunk it. And I’m finished buying furniture. And my dining room table? When my daughter buries me, she’ll have that to take along for herself–and for her kids.

  • avatar

    Roads are not “set aside for motor vehicle use.” Neither legally nor in practice. Horses, mopeds, unicycles, skateboards, scooters, whatever you’ve got is legal on the road in my state, except on limited access highways.

    If you’re a driving enthusiast, other modes and their users are not your enemy. Who’s slowing you down? Is it the guy on the scooter? The ped crossing at the light? Or is it the endless sea of Camry and Odyssey drivers dawdling along, bored, half looking at their phones? Isn’t that the biggest difference between real-world driving and the winding open road in the car commercials?

  • avatar

    This is the only 1/2 decent looking new car I’ve seen in years .

    Thanx for the comments all ! =8-) .


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