By 2016, rich Chinese mainlanders could potentially own their very own Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as US-based corporation Terrafugia turns East in search of partners that can help get their dream of inventing a flying car off the ground.
The Terrafugia co-founder and chief executive, Carl Dietrich, visited the mainland this month to meet with potential investors for the “Transition”, the name they’ve given their flying vehicle. It’s an apt title as Terrafugia’s Transition can transform from car into aircraft in less than a minute by unfolding its wings. And its got some horse/pegasus power. The flying machine comes with a 100-bhp engine that allows it to reach speeds of up to 105km/h on the ground and 160km/h in the air.
The Massachusetts-based corporation is seeking strategic partners for the first time as they hope to get the car flying by 2016. He was apparently looking for equity investors as strategic partners.
After meeting government economic development groups, officials and potential investors, Dietrich said they were interested to know how flying cars might work on the mainland and what kind of timeframe he was looking at.
“We have been talking to private equity funds, government funds and individual companies that have similar business interest,” he said after visiting cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Wuxi. “What ideally we would like to do is to get two of those three groups together.”
Terrafugia are looking for 30 million USD from investors in their fifth round of seeking financing, and although the price is steep Chinese investors are supposedly showing some “serious interest”. Looks like they’ve found a loophole in Beijing’s anti-smog measures that involve taking cars off the road (aha, they’re already off the road). And if the super-rich can purchase a flying car, it’s highly doubtful they’ll ever go back to the Hongqi H7.
The funds would be used to support the delivery of Transition, which made its first public flight at an aviation show in the United States last year, and to develop the next-generation prototype, the TF-X.
Apparently the company has already received 30 million USD in pre-orders which required a standard 10,000 USD deposit as the Transition itself is priced at 279,000 USD. If Terrafugia can get the government to open the air space, the mainlanders could be living the “Chinese Dream” pretty soon. But hopefully it will look a lot more chic than that ‘Pimp My Ride’ version.
“The biggest challenge to making the flying car dream come true on the mainland was the uncertain timeframe for the opening up of its airspace”, SCMP report. However, the company is aiming to have more conversations with the government after finding “strategic partners,” as the government currently has tight control over the airspace.
When ‘rigs’ fly
Gao Yuanyang, a director of the general aviation industry research centre, would like to see private aircraft owners reach 10,000 on the mainland in 10 years time. But as Gao points out, “even for those certified private aircraft, it’s now very difficult to enter China because of the strict management rules. It will be more difficult for new products like flying cars to get an approval.”
[Image via autoweek.com]
By Sophie Regan