Reports have surfaced suggesting that digital freight platform Full Truck Alliance may acquire the China arm of Plus, an autonomous driving truck company.
In February 2021, Plus completed financing of $200 million, with Full Truck Alliance serving as a co-investor. According to the prospectus submitted by Full Truck Alliance in 2021, as one of the largest shareholders of Plus, it had owned 30% equity of Plus when leading a financing round in 2018. This share was later reduced to about 25% after introducing other investors.
As of December 2020, Full Truck Alliance held 60.37% of the voting rights of Plus, but claimed that it has no actual control over the latter’s major decisions such as operations and financing activities.
Founded in 2016, Plus has the research and development capability of L4 autonomous driving technology. The firm has established strategic cooperations with many heavy-duty truck factories and logistics fleets.
In China, Plus has supported Faw Jiefang, a leading business-use vehicle company, launching a high-level autonomous driving heavy-duty truck model called the “J7 L3,” which was mass-produced and released in mid-2021. At the same time, Plus has joined hands with SF Express, a Chinese logistics giant, to realize commercial operations. In the US, Plus launched mass-produced automated driving products in 2021 to serve leading logistics customers.
However, at the end of 2021, Plus terminated its merger agreement and restructuring plan with Hennessy Capital Investment Corp V (HCIC V), a special purpose acquisition company, and terminated its listing plan.
Some insiders analyzed that after the listing plan failed, Plus and other enterprises tried to emulate TuSimple to split business into two parts in China and the US, and the American part is expected to be listed on the Nasdaq. In order to make up for the losses of major domestic shareholders, more shares should be given to them, so it is very likely to gain the actual control of the team in China.
The general manager of the China region is responsible for all relevant affairs in the country, while the two main founders are living abroad to monitor overseas business.
In addition, rumors that a joint venture will acquire TrunkTech, another self-driving truck startup, have been circulating since late last year, which is seen as the beginning of a major change in the L4 autonomous truck field.
A source told Huxiu that, in addition to financing difficulties, TrunkTech has also started downsizing this year, which is actually becoming the norm within the L4 autonomous driving circle.
The overall prospects of the autonomous driving truck industry are not optimistic. A former autonomous driving truck seller who has left the job revealed to Huxiu the difficulty he had been facing, saying, “Large and medium-sized logistics companies are only willing to engage in a strategic cooperation with self-driving truck firms, but they are not interested in buying actual products. Individual consumers are less likely to buy.”