Chinese Phone Giant, Xiaomi, Going Into the Electric Car Business

You probably heard of Xiaomi because they make phones that are relatively cheap and cheerful, which has contributed to them becoming one of the leading phone brands in the world. In recent years, the Chinese company had diversified into other home gadgets, including a hodgepodge of security cameras, sonic toothbrushes, light bulbs, scooters, rice cookers and more. (Fun fact: If you type “Xiaomi makes…” into Google’s search bar, one of the search predictions ends with “…everything.”)

Now it seems that Xiaomi wants to join a long line of companies vying for a piece of the electric car pie. The Chinese company announced earlier this week that it will be investing US$10 billion over the next ten years into their “smart electric vehicle” business unit, with Xiaomi’s CEO Lei Jun leading it.

Xiaomi is already late to the game and it’s a competitive one, particularly in China. Government policies and subsidies have led to a relatively significant uptake of EVs in the country, and electric car manufacturers, though many of them are still in the aspirational stage, are kickstarting their electric revolution there.

There are established automakers, such as Geely and BYD, and upstarts like Tesla, Nio and Kandi, already with production models launched or on the road. And then there are search giants like Baidu that are diversifying into EV-making with piles of cash to back their venture. But Xiaomi’s advantage could be that they have their finger in everything and could create an ecosystem in which all their gadgets can communicate with one another – imagine a car that can tell your rice cooker that you’re on the way home, therefore it should start cooking, and snitches on you to the toothbrush that you’ve driven to the durian stall and therefore it should vibrate on high intensity during your bedtime ablution…

For the “building a car” part, though, which Xiaomi has no experience in, the rumour is that the electronics company will be working with Great Wall Motors, although both companies have officially denied it. Nonetheless, the share prices of both Xiaomi and Great Wall soared at the news.

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