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Hon Hai in talks to partner with auto giants Audi, BMW

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world's largest contract electronics maker, said yesterday that it has been in talks with German luxury-car makers BMW AG and Audi AG on creating a manufacturing partnership.

Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou said he invited Michael Zickerick, director-general of the German Institute Taipei, to attend the Hon Hai charity festival on that same day because his company will make a “huge investment” in Germany in the future.

“One reason is that we will have very big development plans with German car makers, including Audi and BMW,” Gou told a press briefing at the annual festival, but did not provide details of the plans.

Another key investment destination for Hon Hai is Indonesia, where the Taiwanese conglomerate plans to set up manufacturing bases to manufacture mobile devices for BlackBerry Ltd., as well as building a machine-to-machine network with the Canadian handset maker, Gou said.

The United States, however, will remain Hon Hai's largest overseas market in the next three years, as the company is seeking new locations in that country for cloud computing and automation plants, he added.

Gou's remarks came within a month after BMW unveiled its i3 electric car at the Jan. 7-10 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) trade fair in Las Vegas. The car uses ultrasound sensors to find parking spaces parallel to the road and even takes over the parking of the car through its electronically controlled steering.

Further, the i3's safety assistance system can bring the vehicle back into line in demanding driving situations without any input from the driver, according to BMW.

Also at the CES show, Audi demonstrated its prize-winning “piloted driving” technology on a specially equipped A6 sedan, which took total control of steering, braking and accelerating for the driver.

According to a recent report from researcher Navigant Research, worldwide sales of light-duty hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles will reach 6.6 million units annually by 2020, representing almost 7 percent of the total light-duty vehicle market.

“Electric vehicles, including plug-in models, are becoming an increasingly important part of the global automotive market,” says Dave Hurst, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.

“This growth is being driven not only by the inherent appeal of the vehicles, but also by consumer demand for vehicles that cost less to operate than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, government incentives, and a rebounding economic climate,” Hurst said.

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