Ghosn to set up fund for mobility ventures

Carlos Ghosn chairman of Alliance Ventures discusses the future of autonomous cars

The world's largest automotive alliance will invest as much as $1 billion to fund mobility startups over the next five years as it looks to make inroads with new technology at a time of rapid upheaval for the transportation sector.

The fund offers access to potential partners, global scale and scope of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, which has sold more than 10 million vehicles past year through 10 separate brands, across the world.

"Our open innovation approach will allow us to invest and collaborate with start-up companies and technology entrepreneurs, who will benefit from the global scale of the Alliance", Mr Ghosn said. "This new fund reflects the collaborative spirit and entrepreneurial mind-set at the heart of the Alliance".

Called Alliance Ventures, the fund has already made its first investment, taking an equity stake for an undisclosed amount in Ionic Materials - a Bill Joy-backed battery technology developer.

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The fund is also a key part of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi's Alliance 2022, which aims to double the "annualised synergies" - or how much the companies can save by working together - to more than €10bn (£8.9bn) by the end of 2022. Renault and Nissan will both put up 40% of the capital for the new fund, with Mitsubishi Motors financing the remainder. Ionic, based in MA, is the developer of a pioneering solid polymer electrolyte that enables improved performance and cost effectiveness of high-energy density batteries for automotive and multiple other applications. Technologies discovered by each partner will be shared through the alliance. It is a step toward fulfilling the group's Alliance 2022 strategy to improve cooperation and cost sharing between the three companies, and boost sales. Volkswagen doesn't appear to have a dedicated venture investment group, instead making direct investments in companies or setting up joint ventures with other automakers.

Francois Dossa, the former chief executive officer of Nissan Brazil, will lead Alliance Ventures.

The alliance plans to launch 12 all-electric models over the next six years, and also plans to market vehicles with autonomous drive technology and develop robo-vehicle ride-hailing services.

"The way we're organized now is not sufficient", Carlos Ghosn, chairman of the alliance, said in a Bloomberg Television interview at CES in Las Vegas, citing a need for the creativity of startups and outside partners.