Chinese car firm Geely is quietly becoming a major global player in the car industry, through a series of clever investments in mildly distressed car brands.

Geely’s skill is spotting firms with an inherent brand value, which it can reinvigorate with a dose of investment, a dash of guidance and a refreshingly hands-off approach.

It bought Volvo from Ford in 2011 and has reinvigorated the Swedish car firm, turning it into a major force in the premium SUV market. The purchase of the London Taxi Company (now rebranded the London EV Company) has given it a solid commercial vehicle platform. The 2017 purchase of Lotus has secured Geely a flagship sports car brand with a rich history.

Taking a 50% share in Smart from Mercedes-Benz parent firm Daimler is another shrewd move – and crucially it’s one that works for both firms. Smart has struggled in recent years, with Daimler intending to reinvent it as an electric-only city car brand.

But such a move requires plenty of investment, with no guarantee of a return. In a joint venture, Daimler now gets to share the burden of that investment. While Mercedes-Benz will lead the styling of future Smart cars, they’ll be built by Geely in China.