In current China, it seems that all the powerful tech companies are looking to start building cars.
Xiaomi ecosystem company Roborock has kicked off a car-building project, with its founder and CEO Chang Jing at the helm, 36kr said Friday, citing several industry sources with knowledge of the project.
The project operates under a separate car company, with Roborock contributing to the company, the report said.
Like Li Auto, the company has chosen the extended-range technology route for its first vehicle, with an initial product positioning as a hardcore off-road model similar to the Mercedes-Benz G series, the report said.
The project has been launched at the end of 2020 with an angel round valuation of $240 million, the report said, adding that former WM Motor CTO Yan Feng has joined the team.
Roborock is the star company in the Xiaomi ecosystem, with its main business being smart cleaning hardware such as floor sweepers.
(Source: Roborock website)
In February 2020, Roborock went public on China's Nasdaq-style sci-tech innovation board, also known as the STAR market, and now has a market capitalization of RMB 77 billion ($12 billion).
In response to the report, Roborock said that the project is not directly related to it. Roborock focuses on technology innovation and is dedicated to smart hardware development, the company said.
Nevertheless, the project is indeed real. Roborock is not directly involved, but that doesn't mean its founder isn't.
Information from data provider Tianyancha shows that Chang founded Shanghai Luo Ke Intelligent Technology Co. on Jan. 8, 2021, with a registered capital of 10 million yuan.
Chang holds a 69.8% stake in the company, which Roborock does not own.
The company's business scope includes research and development of electric motors and their control systems, sales of new energy vehicles, research and development of emerging energy technologies, research and development of automotive parts and components, and sales of new energy vehicle production and testing equipment.
Roborock is the latest of the Chinese technology companies to be associated with car manufacturing.
On January 11, Baidu announced the formation of an electric vehicle company with Geely, entering the automotive industry as a vehicle manufacturer.
At the end of March, Xiaomi Group announced its entry into the field of car manufacturing, with its founder Lei Jun as the car arm's CEO and an initial investment of 10 billion yuan.
On April 6, LatePost cited multiple sources as saying that Chinese car-sharing giant Didi Chuxing has launched a car-making project headed by Didi Vice President Yang Jun, who is also the chief product officer of Didi's D1, a custom car jointly released with BYD.
The team has already started poaching talents from car companies, the report said, adding that the exact form and path of Didi's car-making is currently unknown.
Zhu Jiang, who was formerly vice president of user development at NIO, could join Didi, a person familiar with the matter said, adding that he has years of experience working at car companies, including BMW Brilliance, Lexus, NIO and Ford China.
For Chinese tech giants, no one seems to want to enter the car-making space, lured by the huge popularity shown by emerging car makers, including NIO.
However, it is worth noting that car building involves huge investments and very complex industry chain management.
Even for Baidu, which already has mature self-driving technology, the first model will not be launched until three years later.
Therefore, it will not be easy for companies that announced their entry into the car-making field this year to challenge NIO, XPeng Motors, and Li Auto, which are already considered established, although they have also been established for a short period of time.