Chinese Businessman Planning Electric Car Production in Croatia

By 4 June 2017

Karl Soong says he wants to live with his family in Zadar and open an electric car factory in Metković.

Chinese entrepreneur Karl Soong, the founder, and CEO of Poly International Group, one of the leading companies for the manufacturing of electrical appliances and electric vehicles in southern China, recently registered the Greentech Group company in Zadar, which he plans to use to build an electric car and scooter factory in Metković, reports on June 4, 2017.

Karl Song has 25 years of experience in marketing and management. According to his Linkedin business profile, Karl Soong, whose real name is Xuegao Song, has been involved in the research and development of electric vehicles since 2005, after he completed the EMBA program at the Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou. He has cooperated with many of the leading world experts in the field of the development of battery technologies that can be used in public transport and cars, from Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla Motors, to Mate Rimac. Soong is the owner of the prototype electric vehicle which holds the record for distance traveled with a single charge of the lithium battery.

Why did you decide to invest in Croatia? What do you want to do in Metković?

The name of Nikola Tesla, the father of the electrical industry, is connected with Croatia. By studying Nikola Tesla as a person and inventor, I have learned a lot about him and about Croatia. I first came to Croatia with a wish to buy Rimac Automobili from the owner Mate Rimac. After a detailed analysis of Croatian potential, I have opted for the Neretva Valley area as the most suitable location for future development. There, we want to build plants for electric cars and electric scooters. Not all parts would be produced in Metković, but they would be assembled there into a final product which would then be offered in the European market.

Why did you choose Metković?

There are several reasons. I visited Metković on 28 March, when Mayor Kata Ujdur showed me the entrepreneurial zone in Metković. She also presented the port of Ploče to us, which is one of the very important factors for us. She explained the development plans for the C5 road corridor through Bosnia and Herzegovina, through which it will be possible to place products in the eastern part of the European Union, while the existing highway links the Neretva Valley with the west of the EU. She also introduced us to Mihovil Štimac, the owner of the factory halls in Metković, which could be rented until we construct our new production facilities.

How much do you plan to invest in Metković?

The value of the first phase of the investment, which includes two segments, the purchase of the land and the construction of the production facilities, is 10 million euros. The second phase, the acquisition of equipment needed for production, amounts to about 50 million euros.

Have you signed agreements on co-operation with representatives of the local self-government units?

The project is ready as far as I am concerned, but we have not yet signed the contracts for two reasons. It was not possible to sign any contracts with the Town of Ploče and the Town of Metković due to the dissolution of the town councils. For our project, we need some 30 hectares of land, and all the suitable land in that part of Croatia is owned by municipalities or towns. I want to point out that my intentions are very serious. I have applied for a work permit in Croatia and received it on 22 May. We hope that we will be in business very soon.

Is it true that you wanted to buy Rimac Automobili and then invest two billion dollars in the company?

As for Rimac Automobili, I wanted to do business with them, and to develop the company into the world's greatest brand. It is true that I had the intention to take over the majority of Rimac Automobili and invest two billion dollars in the future development of the company. But Mate refused the offer because he is more inclined towards developing components for other car producers, while I wanted to develop two categories of automobiles. The first category would include sport electric vehicles, and the other electric city cars and scooters that would be affordable to average people in Croatia and the EU. The cost of the electric city car would be between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

Did you cooperate with Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla?

I moved to the United States in 2005. In Los Angeles, I worked with a group of Tesla engineers as an associate. I proposed the battery concept for the Tesla Road Star car to them, their first model of an electric car.

Do you plan to invest in Zadar?

My first company in Croatia, Greentech Group, was founded this year with its headquarters in Zadar. I like Zadar and want to live here with my family, but for now, I do not intend to invest here, maybe later. My partner Anthony Ninčević and his family are also from Zadar, which will help us in our adaptation to future life and work in Croatia and Zadar.

How would you assess the business climate in Croatia?

The business environment in Croatia seems very complicated to me. By their way of thinking, Croats are quite similar to the Chinese, although you may not be aware of it. We also like to cook our food, we appreciate family values, and we try to adapt to every situation. For our future development, it is crucial to have the support of local authorities and the state, because without it there is no possibility of developing production. We want to use Croatia as a base for future production, and later for placement of our products in EU countries. I think this is the future of Croatia because it has very smart young engineers, but they do not have an adequate platform for the implementation and development of their capabilities. Owing to that, they go abroad and develop other societies instead of doing it at home. Croatian engineers are exceptional and not as expensive as those in Germany. The same applies to other parts of the workforce.

For a Croatian engineer to earn a salary like they can in Germany, they have to develop their society, and not others. We all define our destinies, both in good times and in bad times. That is why I look forward to plans with my partner Anthony Ninčević, who is currently studying to become an engineer. We want to fund scholarships for young engineers who will join us after they graduate. You cannot live by reselling products. Today, you have to be more innovative and imaginative than others, and I see that as a common interest of Croatian-Chinese partner relations to achieve competitiveness in the EU market.