Carmax Auto Auction Holdings Inc. announced Thursday it has sold its auto auction business to a Chinese buyer for $202.5 million, an auctioneer’s firm said.
Carmax, which makes body-worn video game headsets, had been a fixture in the auto industry, selling in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The sale is expected to close by the end of the year.
The seller is the China Auto Finance Group, the group said.
The company is controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, the chairman of the China National Petroleum Corp., which owns a majority stake in Carmax.
The deal has the backing of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party.
The auction of the company’s business has been an important part of the Chinese government’s strategy to control and manipulate foreign companies.
The United States, which had been interested in buying Carmax in recent years, stopped short of a deal.
“Carmax was never going to be a successful enterprise without the ability to export to China,” said Mike Lohmann, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
The Associated Press reported the sale of Carmax was a one-time, low-risk move.
Lohm said the company will continue to operate and sell its business.
Carmox will continue its efforts to build a new manufacturing plant in China.
“The Chinese government has been a long-term beneficiary of Carmox and will benefit from the company continuing to operate in China,” Lohmand said.
He said the Chinese company will have to pay its debts and take on additional debt to survive.
The AP reported that the Chinese buyer is an investor in a U.S. company, China Automotive Technology Corp., that has been developing autonomous vehicles and other technologies.
The buyer is seeking to make the payment through a new debt-free, publicly-traded company, the AP reported.
Carmex Automotive Services Corp., a company that made car-to-home video and car-wash products, is also part of China Automobile Technology Corp. The Chinese buyer did not disclose the buyer’s name.
Carmx announced in January it had signed a deal with Ford Motor Co. to develop and manufacture autonomous cars.
Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The auto industry has been increasingly under the sway of China, whose leaders have promoted the technology and its use by the government as a key tool to boost economic growth.
The country has also become increasingly assertive in its efforts, as it seeks to establish a market for vehicles made in its own factories.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin is an outspoken critic of the United States.
He has vowed to crack down on foreign investment in the automotive industry.
The U.N. Security Council last month unanimously approved a new U.K.-China trade pact that includes a ban on the export of arms to China.
In a statement, the U.A.E. said the Carmax sale is an example of how China is trying to control the market.
“We expect to see a lot of Chinese companies continue to pursue their interests in this area,” it said.
“This new transaction is not a sign of Chinese domination of the auto auction market.
Rather, it demonstrates the Chinese desire to continue to use its market position to manipulate its own competitors.”
The AP contributed to this report.