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Carmakers seek tie-ups with IT giants

Partnerships include Hyundai-Samsung, Kia-SKT and Renault-POSCO ICT


Carmakers are signing business tie-ups with information and communication technology giants amid growing demand for high-end auto components.

Among them are Kia Motors-SK Telecom and Renault Samsung Motors-POSCO ICT. Hyundai Motor and Samsung Electronics have reportedly been in talks for an alliance.

Renault Samsung said Thursday that it signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing infrastructure for commercializing electric vehicles, which will be launched by automaker next year.

“The bilateral pact is mainly focused on securing battery-charging networks nationwide and developing the electric car-rental business,” Renault Samsung said in a statement.

The automaker plans to introduce the all-electric SM3 to the public in 2013 in what is to become the country’s first mass production zero-emission car.

It is also aiming to launch 500 pilot EV cars by December 2012 after it was chosen as one of two carmakers to receive tax breaks for the production of zero-emission cars.

Dubbed the “quick-drop battery exchange system,” the electric SM3 will travel up to 160 kilometers on a 250 kilogram lithium-ion battery that can be replaced through a fully automated battery station in less than 90 seconds.

On the same day, Kia Motors clinched a pact on a strategic business tie-up with SK Telecom.

The two companies, or units of Hyundai Motor Group and SK Group respectively, plan to develop “smart cars,” equipped with high-end auto parts.

In particular, SKT is poised to provide Kia with technologies from Hynix Semiconductor, which was recently acquired by the telecommunication giant.

The two parties have decided to “widen the scope of collaboration to sectors like semiconductors,” Kia said in a statement.

Last December, SKT bought a 21-percent controlling stake in Hynix Semiconductor for 3.4 billion won ($3 billion) in its biggest-ever acquisition.

Their alliance has continued over the past few years. Under Kia’s deal with the country’s largest mobile carrier, SKT customers had enjoyed a discount when purchasing Kia vehicles.

In addition, market observers are raising the possibility that Hyundai Motor will seek mass production of car-oriented semiconductors in coordination with Samsung Electronics.

Though the nation’s largest carmaker has been developing semiconductors as a high-end auto component with its affiliate Hyundai Autron, more strategic tie-ups with Samsung or Hynix are necessary amid fierce competition among global carmakers, local auto dealers say.

“Samsung Electronics is likely to pour more investment into development of car-oriented semiconductors,” a dealer said. “It would be better for the nation’s two largest enterprises to seek synergy via a tie-up.”

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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