Tech

Xiaomi reportedly plotting electric car play

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is planning to make electric vehicles, according to a Chinese media report. This move could make it the latest entrant into the country’s exploding electric vehicle market, with founder and CEO Lei Jun reportedly leading the project.

Why it matters: The reported entry of Xiaomi, often dubbed “the Apple of China,” could shake up the entire auto industry. Its success in the consumer electronics market has given it high brand awareness among domestic consumers.

Details: After years of indecision, Xiaomi is about to give its electric car project the go-ahead, Chinese media LatePost reported Friday, citing “people familiar with the matter.” Sources cautioned that the company’s plans are still at an early stage and subject to change.

  • LatePost’s sources said that Xiaomi began a project code-named “Micar” in 2018 to explore own-brand cars. The project was launched after founder Lei Jun’s visited Elon Musk in the US back in 2013.
  • A Xiaomi spokesperson did not respond to TechNode’s request for comment.

Context: Xiaomi has made investments in home-grown EV brands before, leading the $400 million Series C of Xpeng Motors as a strategic investor in late 2019. Prior to that, Shunwei Capital, a venture capital firm founded by Lei, backed Nio’s Series A in 2015.

  • The smartphone maker also boasts an advanced voice recognition technology, reaching partnerships first with state-owned FAW Group in 2018, later with Geely and Mercedes Benz in 2019 for the adoption of its voice-activated virtual assistant. It is still a small player, with iFlytek currently leading with 40% of the in-car voice assistant segment.
  • Xiaomi has been looking for approaches to expand its presence in car connectivity, including partnerships with automakers in contract manufacturing, Jin Di, consulting director at market research firm Ipsos, told TechNode on Friday.
  • Chinese new energy vehicle market reported strong sales of 1.37 million units in 2020, representing a 11% year-on-year growth despite business disruptions associated with the global pandemic, according to figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
  • Last month, search engine company Baidu revealed plans to make EVs in partnership with Volvo’s parent Geely.

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