Car manufacturers can’t afford to rest on their back feet when it comes to innovation, especially when new auto makers like Tesla and tech giants like Google and Apple are eyeing autonomous vehicles and developing the car as a new software platform. To stay proactive, many of these auto businesses have set up venture arms and are betting on startups. We used CB Insights social graph to map out the private market activity of the auto industry. These are the most active auto corporates with disclosed private market activity since 2010.
- General Motors/GM Ventures
- BMW/BMW iVentures
- Audi/Audi Electronics Venture
- Volvo Ventures
Below is a social graph detailing the activity of auto makers since 2010 (green lines are investments and red lines are acquisitions). GM, BMW, Volvo, and Audi all have active venture arms, while the other corporates invest out of the parent company.
Here are some interesting insights from the data:
- GM has been the most active, with investments in more than 10 companies since 2010, either through the main corporation or its venture investing arm, GM Ventures.
- Auto firms invest at all stages, especially the late stage: While 31% of deals with a major auto investor were in the late stage (Series D+), early-stage and late-stage deals took 27% and 19% a piece respectively (with the remaining amount going to deals not attributed to a specific round type).
- General Motors’ and Daimler investments focus on manufacturing, energy (batteries), and car development: GM has invested in energy storage (Sakti3), renewable energy (Coskata), and companies involved in developing unique materials (Sirrus Chemistry, The Nanosteel Company). Daimler has also invested in two energy related startups (Deutsche ACCUmotive and Li-Tech Battery) and the passenger car unit of BAIC Motor. These are generally more capital-intensive endeavors, and both of these companies are unique among auto manufacturers in investing in these component-centric startups (though Volvo has made an investment in energy storage company QuantumScape).
- Auto manufacturers are focusing on tech involved in smart hardware and mapping: Connected cars (Zendrive) , machine-to-machine communication (TTTech, Cubic Telecom) and intelligent mapping (Inrix, Telogis) are hot investment areas among these manufacturers.
- BMW, Ford and Daimler have disclosed acquisitions of private companies: BMW has acquired parking startup Parkmobile and Ford has acquired Livio Connect, which is able to connect apps to hardware (with clear use cases in automobiles, with the company using car stereo systems as an example). Daimler acquired both of the energy related startups mentioned above.
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