(Bloomberg) -- Stellantis NV is considering a tie-up with a Chinese electric vehicle company as Europe’s second-largest automaker by sales seeks to bolster its presence in the world’s biggest auto market, according to people familiar with the matter.

The carmaker has explored potentially working with Chinese EV makers including Zhejiang Leapmotor Technologies Ltd., the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Following in the footsteps of its rivals, Stellantis is weighing options such as investing in a local EV firm and a business partnership that would help it grow in China, the people said. 

Leapmotor shares climbed as much as 11.4% in Hong Kong on Thursday, the biggest intraday gain in more than four months. The stock rose 10.49% as of 10:25 a.m., valuing the firm at $5.2 billion.

Considerations are ongoing and no final decisions have been made, the people said. Other global carmakers including Volkswagen AG have also expressed interest in a potential tie-up with Leapmotor, one of the people said. 

Leapmotor raised $803 million in a Hong Kong initial public offering in September 2022. Its shares are trading more than 20% below the IPO price amid fierce competition among nascent EV makers.

Spokespeople for Stellantis and Volkswagen declined to comment, while a Leapmotor representative didn’t respond to requests for comment.

A partnership would fit with the “asset-light” strategy in China that Stellantis Chief Executive Officer Carlos Tavares has floated, after the company halted production in its only Jeep plant in China last year and weighed ending all carmaking in the country. Tavares said in July he is happy with his decision to downsize, saying rivals Volkswagen and General Motors Co. are “under pressure” in China as vehicle producers slash prices.

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Stellantis still has a joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group Co. to sell Peugeot and Citroën cars in China. The incoming chief financial officer of the automaking giant, formed from the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Group, said in July that figuring out China is key because of the country’s importance in the shift to EVs.

Global carmakers have been eyeing the Chinese EV market as they seek to expand in the world’s second-largest economy. Volkswagen last month said it plans to invest $700 million in Xpeng Inc. and jointly develop electric vehicles in China.

--With assistance from Stefan Nicola, Craig Trudell, Linda Lew, Albertina Torsoli and Gabrielle Coppola.

(Updates with Leapmotor shares in third paragraph.)

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