Terrafugia’s parent company, Zhejiang Geely, has transferred work on its Transition flying car to China. The move, which happened barely a month after the FAA issued a light sport certificate of airworthiness for the vehicle, has resulted in up to 100 job losses at its U.S. operation in Woburn, Massachusetts.
A spokesman for Terrafugia confirmed to FutureFlight that the Geely group—which is a major automotive group that owns international car brands including Volvo and Lotus—now intends to seek certification by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. He said that Terrafugia will retain the U.S. operation with a reduced team focusing on “aviation-related business opportunities."
Just over a year ago, in January 2020, Geely made an internal announcement about plans for an eVTOL aircraft called the TF-2A. The four-seat design has been projected to have a range of 185 miles, a 1,200-pound payload, and a maximum speed of 144 mph.
This appears to be based on an earlier, and larger TF-2 design that Terrafugia had been working on until the program was scrapped in mid-2018. However, it remains unclear how much progress the Chinese parent company may have made with the TF-2A and whether it intends to continue the project.
The two-seat Transition is now approved for flight mode in the U.S. and the manufacturer last month indicated that it intended to complete the approval process for road use in 2022. That plan, at least for the U.S. market, would now appear to be in doubt, even though Terrafugia had taken provisional orders from customers eager to use it in flight-only mode from airfields in the interim.
Terrafugia was founded back in 2006 by a group of graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including CEO Carl Dietrich. In November 2017, Geely agreed to acquire the company and at the time said it would support its plans to develop the TF-2 eVTOL model. Dietrich left the company in April 2019 and in January 2020 formed Jump Aero, which is developing an eVTOL aircraft specifically developed for emergency medical support services.
In 2020 Geely formed an autonomous vehicles subsidiary called Aerofugia after acquiring a drone-manufacturing company called AOSSCI, which is based in Chengdu, China. According to Chinese media reports, the group has merged Terrafugia into Aerofugia.
Geely is also a significant investor in German eVTOL aircraft developer Volocopter. In 2019, Volocopter indicated that it plans to start a joint venture with Geely to advance urban air mobility plans in China. Speaking at the Mobile World Conference in Shanghai on February 24, Aerofugia's CEO Jing Chao referred to his company's involvement in this plan, without specifying when exactly it may be implemented.
[This story was updated on February 24 to include new information about Zhejiang Geely's autonomous vehicle subsidiary Aerofugia].