Terrafugia, despite being founded by a quintet of MIT graduates, is hardly immune to such skepticism.
The company said on Monday that it has agreed to the purchase of USA startup Terrafugia that is making the world's first flying vehicle for practical use by 2019, pushing the Hong Kong-listed shares in its subsidiary to an all-time high. The company expects to deliver it to the market in 2023.
Geely, which owns a stake in national carmaker Proton, said it had received the necessary approval for the deal, including from the United States government's Committee on Foreign Investment, to take over all of Terrafugia's operations and assets. The U.S. company has around 100 engineers, recently tripled in anticipation of fund injection from Geely.
Chris Jaran, Terrafugia's newly appointed CEO, said the expansion of the company's R&D capabilities would be prioritized, according to Xinhuanet.
While most carmakers-including Geely-owned Volvo-are developing self-driving auto technologies in a bid to turn science-fiction fantasy into near-future reality, a handful of smaller companies cling to serious attempts at building flying cars. The question surrounding Terrafugia, then, appears centered on what business case can be made for self-flying cars.
"The team at Terrafugia have been at the forefront of believing in and realising the vision for a flying vehicle and creating the ultimate mobility solution", Geely Holding founder and chairman, Li Shufu, said.
"Now as part of Geely Holding Group I am confident that we can reach that vision and subsequent commercial success by utilising the Group's shared global synergy", he added. While it still requires a runway for takeoff and landing, Terrafugia has a more advanced design known as the Transition TF-X that promises vertical takeoff and landing and even better performance.
Francis Kwok Sze-chi, managing director at Freeman Securities in Hong Kong, told NQN: "Demand for "flying cars" is promising in China where traffic congestions are chronic headaches". And Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler has invested in German flying taxi startup Volocoptor, while Uber is working with NASA to develop a flying taxi service of its own.