Apple has teased over years they were going to make an electric or self driving car, but it is Xiaomi, the third largest smartphone maker making cars. Just announced in China, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. Ltd (BAIC), one of China’s largest car makers will make the SU7 range. BAIC also has a joint-venture to produce Mercedes-Benz cars in China.
Xiaomi announced it would join the EV manufacturing race in March 2021, claiming it would invest 10 billion RMB ($US1.4 billion) into the project. It has been producing e-scooters for some years (InsideEV)
Battery Electric Vehicles are computers on wheels rapidly gaining a share of the new car market globally. According to Car News China, the SU7 will be available with a choice of single-motor rear-wheel drive and 220kW, or dual-motor all-wheel drive and 495kW in Feb 2024
They say their electric car will come in three versions, the SU7, SU7 Pro and SU7 Max.
Can a Smartphone Maker Making Cars Be Successful?
Tony Seba says that ICE car manufacturers have to be careful they don’t fall into the trap of creating a caterpillar with wings instead of a butterfly. An EV is a computer on wheels, so it may be that Xiaomi has few of the cultural impediments that conventional auto makers have.
- Apple was first to announce it was working on a car back in 2014 – the Apple car and in 2018 reportedly had over 5,000 engineers working on it (Wikipedia) but by 2021/23 had been in discussion with Hyundai and Toyota but it seems that the project has folded.
- Foxconn, the maker of Apple smartphones, has ambitious plans (see below)
- The largest Chinese smartphone maker Huawei has a joint venture with Aito for cars. The launch was in mid-2023, with sales over 25,000 cars(Reuters). Huawei is partnering with more legacy automakers to produce Aito-branded electric cars. Huawei will team up with Chery Automobile (CHERY.UL), BAIC Motor (1958.HK) and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (600418.SS) in jointly developing and manufacturing Aito-branded vehicles.
- OPPO, owned by China’s BBK Corporation, and the 3rd of the Chinese Smartphone conglomerates also owns smartphone brands OnePlus, Vivo, Realme and iQOO. Its rumoured Oppo is making an EV for India in 2023
Note: these large smartphone manufacturers have deep experience in billion-dollar supply chains, have excellent software teams, and no legacy auto history.
Specifications for the Xiaomi SU7
- Electric sedan. Dimensions =4997/1963/1455 mm
- Wheelbase = 3000 mm.
- Two versions, one with with lidar and without.
- Lidar installed behind the front windshield.
- The LFP battery pack comes from BYD for cheaper trim and ternary NMC from CATL for a more expensive option.
- Curb weight is 1,980 kg, and top trim 2,205kg
- Top speed of 210 km/h for the lower trim and 265 km/h for top trim.
- E;ectric motor model is TZ220XS000, made by United Automotive Electronics Co., Ltd.
Foxtron – from Foxconn Makers
Foxconn, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the giant electronics producer based in Taiwan with $222b revenue in 2022 makes 2 out of 3 Apple products, Dell, Cisco, Google and other tech products.
Foxtron is a joint venture between Foxconn – the world’s largest contract manufacturer for iPhones and other consumer electronics – and Chinese car maker Yulon (2201.TW). Its single client is Luxgen, owned by Yulon.
Lordstown USA site
GM owned the Lordsdown complex and built many models there. The site is at Youngstown, near the Pennsylvania border. GM shuttered it as part of a cost-cutting effort in 2019. GM then sold the facility to Lordstown Motors Corp. The startup struggled for a few years to build electric trucks before filing for Chapter 11. As Foxconn had invested in Lordstown, it now has the site. Its not clear if Foxconn/Foxtron will make cars in the USA.