US car giant to invest £19.4m in Chester start-up

Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port

American car making giant General Motors is pumping millions of pounds into a fledgling Chester company specialising in driverless technology.

Wejo has received £19.4m from the automotive group, according to reports by Sky.

General Motors, which last year sold its Vauxhall division for £1.9bn to the French owner of Peugeot and Citroen, including the Ellesmere Port Astra manufacturing plant in Cheshire, is also believed to have agreed a long-term data-sharing agreement with Wejo.

This arrangement involves wejo managing data from millions of GM’s vehicles over a seven-year period.

GM’s investment, having taken a 35% stake, is believed to value Wejo at £213m.

Wejo was founded by entrepreneur Richard Barlow, who recognised the value of data from ‘connected cars’ to insurers, local authorities and breakdown recovery services.

To date, the start-up has processed data from 78 billion miles of car journeys.

Wejo employs approximately 150 people in the UK and US, and is expected to use its new funding to grow its workforce.

It believes it can improve vehicle safety and the car-driving and ownership experience in areas such as real-time parking availability and local petrol price comparisons.

This includes the ability to predict breakdowns and collisions, while monitoring traffic and air quality.

“The value of this data to industries like traffic and mapping, urban mobility, insurance, parking and geolocation is potentially enormous,” one insider said.

Sources also claimed that, as well as the GM investment, wejo will continue to work with a range of other major car manufacturers.

It is believed that GM’s backing will make wejo the most valuable British start-up in the connected car space, amid an anticipated explosion in the number of internet-enabled vehicles during the next decade, as well as boost its efforts to turn itself into a genuinely global data exchange.

Analysts at Gartner expect the connected car market to grow to more than 250 million cars by 2025, with 20 million cars projected to be on the wejo platform by the end of the year, according to internal company forecasts.

Last year, Mr Barlow recruited Tim Lee, the former head of GM’s business in China, as its new chairman

A wejo spokesman told Sky News: “GM has more experience with connectivity than any other automaker and wejo’s data scientists are at the forefront of analysing and understanding the data generated by vehicle sensors.

“Together, we will create even more value for customers from connectivity.”

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