Auto Giants Setting Up Shop in Israel

Eli Groner, director general at the Prime Minister’s Office. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Volkswagen and Hyundai have announced plans to set up shop in Israel for the development of their smart car technologies, The Times of Israel reported.

“We are very serious about creating a campus in Tel Aviv,” said Peter Harris, chief customer officer of Volkswagen Group, at a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. “There is no doubt we need to be here.”

The Israeli center will become part of its global network 39 Centers of Competence and IT labs located in Europe, North America and Asia, all aimed at growing VW from a hardware company into a software and services firm, Harris said.

Youngcho Chi, chief innovation officer of Strategy and Technology at Hyundai Motors Group, said that the giant South Korean carmaker is in the process of “setting up an innovation hub that is expected to be launched in the early part of next year.”

Key points of interest will be artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, energy and smart city technologies, Chi said.

“We like to work with the most innovative and creative minds to change mobility, and that is why I am in Israel,” he said. “We want to partner with Israel in shaping the future of mobility.”

The Hyundai and VW executives attended the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Summit being held in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and Wednesday. Approximately 2,000 people participated from more than 30 countries.

Intel’s landmark acquisition of Israel-based Mobileye in March lifted Israel to the forefront of the burgeoning autonomous car and auto-tech industry.

Eli Groner, the director general at the Prime Minister’s Office, who is also leading the nation’s National Intelligent Mobility Initiative, says that Israel is positioning itself for a key role in the new field, even though it has no auto industry of its own.

Israel now has the chance “to be big in the auto industry,” Groner said at a briefing with journalists at the conference.

“Right now, we get 20 percent of global private investment in cyber (security technologies),” Groner said. “From a global perspective, the intelligent mobility industry is much bigger than cybersecurity. We don’t need to get 20 percent of the global private investment for this to have a huge impact on our economy.”

Israel is doing its utmost in terms of tax environment and education to ensure that “we will be a hub for global innovation in this space.”