Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi launches connected electric car

Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi launches connected electric car

Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi is joining the country's booming but crowded market for electric cars with a sporty high-tech sedan.

The company began accepting orders for its new electric car the SU7 on Thursday. The car will start at 215,900 yuan (€27,700), a price tag that undercuts the Tesla Model 3 in China.

Xiaomi said it received 50,000 orders for the SU7 in the first 27 minutes after sales opened in Beijing at 10 pm local time.

Government subsidies have helped make China the world's largest market for electric vehicles, with many new makers locked in fierce competition.

While most of the industry's sales have been domestic, Chinese EV makers are pushing into overseas markets with lower-priced models, posing a potential challenge to European, Japanese and American auto companies.

The European Commission launched an anti-subsidy investigation late last year into low-cost electric cars coming from China, which they said were "distorting our market".

Connected cars

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun said that the company aims to become one of the world's top five automakers in the next 15 to 20 years.

The company is currently known for its smartphones, smart televisions and other devices. It wants to connect cars with phones and home appliances.

Lei presented the SU7 as a high-performance vehicle with a long range, before highlighting its smart features, such as talking to a delivery person from the car when the doorbell rings at home.

In a nod to the popularity of the iPhone, he said that the system would be compatible with Apple as well as Xiaomi phones.

Tu Le, the founder of the Sino Auto Insights consultancy, said that Xiaomi is trying to close the loop by adding transportation to a product mix already integrated into its customers' personal and professional lives.

“The ability to seamlessly be a continuous part of someone’s life is the holy grail for tech companies,” he said in an emailed response.

“You probably don’t know anyone in Beijing that doesn’t have at least one Xiaomi product, be it a mobile phone, computer, TV, (air) purifier, or tablet."

As a newcomer to automaking, the company is making an educated guess that it can design and develop a car that will sell, he said. Given the sluggish Chinese economy and an ongoing EV price war, he predicted it would take a year or two to see if Xiaomi can adapt to correct any missteps and succeed.

“They are a technology company, so that’s their advantage, but they need to reconcile that with drinking through a fire hose to learn how to be a tech company that builds cars,” Le said.