According to a source familiar with the matter at hand, Hyundai Motor Group has agreed to acquire a 80% stake in Boston Dynamics from SoftBank Group in a deal worth around $736 million to $828 million (800 billion to 900 billion won).
The development assumes significance since Hyundai can leverage the technology to expand automation at its unionised car factories, as well as design autonomous vehicles like delivery robots, self-driving cars, and drones, said analysts.
The move underscores newly-promoted chairman Euisun Chung pledge to reduce the company’s reliance on traditional car manufacturing; robotics will account for 20% of Hyundai’s future business, with car-making taking up 50%, and the balance filled by urban air mobility.
Chung will own a 20% stake in Boston Dynamics, while Hyundai Motor and its affiliates, Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Glovis, will hold a combined 60% stake, said two sources familiar with the matter at hand on the condition of anonymity since the matter is confidential.
Both, SoftBank and Hyundai Motor declined comment.
“The acquisition would help Hyundai offer a seamless approach to goods delivery with the help of delivery robots and driverless vehicles such as cars and planes,” said Koh Tae-bong, an analyst at Hi Investment & Securities. “But Hyundai needs to prove that Boston Dynamics can be commercially successful and is capable of competing with cheaper Chinese rivals”.
Boston Dynamics, which was spun out from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, was bought by Google in 2013 and sold to SoftBank in 2017.
The company’s clients include Ford Motor Co, which leased two Spot robots in July as part of a pilot programme.
The deal marks the latest in a flurry of deals under Chung, who has pledged to transform the automaker into a mobility provider, midst threats from electric carmaker Tesla and tech firms with ride-sharing, self-driving and other technologies.
“Automakers are in an innovation race. Hyundai is a late-comer to the race, and it seems that they want to showcase that they can do it, rather than trying to generate money from the robots business,” said mobility consultant Cha Doo-won.