LeEco, the Chinese entertainment company formerly known as Letv, has announced that it's partnering with Aston Martin — the famed British supercar brand best known for making James Bond's rides of choice — to bring the RapidE concept to market. The RapidE, first shown last year, is basically a Rapide sedan (take note of the lower-case "e") with an electric powertrain swapped in for the gasoline one.
But that may not be the biggest implication of the deal. Letv probably sounds familiar, because it came out of nowhere to make one of the biggest splashes at CES last month: it's the company funding Faraday Future, the California-based startup working on electric, self-driving cars that it may offer through some sort of unique subscription-based business model. Many have questioned Faraday's ability to deliver on the promise, considering just how hard it is to start a competitive car company — just look at Tesla's mighty struggles over the years — and its unusually large ambitions. LeEco's money lends some legitimacy to the project, but it's still a long shot.
LeEco helps Aston Martin, Aston Martin probably helps Faraday Future
So it's no surprise that Faraday Future has come up in this week's announcement, too. Beyond the RapidE, there is "potential for adding a range of next-generation connected electric vehicles on behalf of Aston Martin, LeEco and Faraday Future," the press release reads. Though Faraday has hired up a substantial staff, including many from the auto industry, it's possible that LeEco will be looking to tap Aston's knowledge to help accelerate Faraday's plans.
Letv also partnered with Aston Martin at CES to show a fancy new infotainment system for Aston's vehicles, so it's no surprise to see the two companies expand their partnership. And as an independent boutique automaker, Aston has had to rely on table scraps and its own wit to stay afloat without a steady cash stream from a corporate parent; LeEco seems to be serving that role, at least in part.
The RapidE is expected to be in production by 2018.