China’s Xiaomi hints it is looking to build cars

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China’s smartphone maker Xiaomi is planning to build electric vehicles.

They are joining a large contingent of tech companies that are looking to electric and autonomous cars as the next-generation smart devices.  

In a regulatory filing in India published last week, Xiaomi said it may sell “all types of vehicles for transport, conveyance and other transport equipment, whether based on electricity or any other motive or mechanical power, including the components, spare parts” in India.

Secret meetings with Tesla bosses and Xiaomi’s have led experts to believe the Chinese tech company could launch their own car in China.

The Chinese love their cars and in keeping with that, over the past 12 months there have been rumours on and off about the chance of a Xiaomi car. The rumours began after Tesla bosses and cars were sighted outside the Xiaomi offices in Beijing, leading fans to believe either Xiaomi were hoping to buy the car mark or produce their own cars.

Chinese news reports are stating that Xiaomi is now, in fact, working with an existing Chinese car manufacturer to produce their own A0 class car codenamed the “Mistla”. A0 class cars are what we call Super Minis here.

The company is not planning at this time to make cars in China and said it was not currently seeking any license or permission to produce them there as well.  One company representative said, “We have nothing in the pipeline,”.

The company’s founder, Lei Jun, originally talked about the possibility of making a car at the beginning of 2015 but after ruling that out, he then said it would happen within the “next three to five years”.  

Chinese tech companies such as Xiaomi are increasingly looking to apply their design and marketing skills in the car industry.  Tech-savvy Chinese consumers are increasingly seeing the benefits of in-car “connectivity” especially for tasks such as shopping and browsing social media while on the road.

[caption id="attachment_5359" align="aligncenter" width="620"] The interior of the Byton car, with its giant screen, unveiled in Shanghai in September © Reuters[/caption]

In China, “Connectivity is a must-have feature” and Chinese alternatives to car software such as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are growing.  Baidu, China’s answer to Google, launched Baidu CarLife in 2015, which integrates smartphones with car display screens and links artificial intelligence with speech recognition.  

The Chinese giant, Alibaba’s is involved in a joint venture with the Chinese carmaker SAIC, named Banma and they he recently released an in-car “operating system”.  Future Mobility, which is a new electric car venture also said it would launch the Byton — short for “Bytes on wheels” in 2018, with a large dashboard screen, saying the car will be “the next generation smart device”.

The BMW 5 Series in China will also have two screens in the front, one 12-inch and one 10-inch, and three in the rear.  But Xiaomi is the first major Chinese tech company even to allude to building whole cars from scratch.

As of now, more than 200 companies have announced plans to build electric cars in China.


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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