(Image credit: Jiyue)
Jidu Auto hasn't made any big moves in the past six months, including missing the Shanghai auto show, raising questions about what's going on with the Baidu car-making arm.
Now, a regulatory filing and a statement from its car-making partner Geely Holding Group have cleared things up.
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released its latest catalog of models that will be allowed to be sold in China for public comment on August 14, and an SUV called the Jiyue 01 is included.
The public can submit their feedback between August 15 and August 21. This is the last major regulatory process before a model can be allowed to be sold in China, and it's extremely rare for a model that makes it into the catalog to not be included in the final one.
The producer of the Jiyue 01 is Geely, and judging by the images in the filing, it's the Robo-01, the first model Jidu had been building. In early February, Jidu had announced that the Robo-01 had been undergoing winter testing in four cities in northern China since December 2022.
Hours after the MIIT's announcement, Geely announced in a statement that it had joined forces with Baidu to launch Jiyue, a premium smart technology brand, calling it a major milestone in their strategic partnership.
The flagship Jiyue 01 model aims to redefine the concept of smart mobility and meet the preference of tech-orientated Chinese consumers for self-driving mobility solutions, the statement said.
Jiyue's primary goal is to deliver an unparalleled smart car experience. In addition to being responsible for the sales, service and marketing of the Jiyue 01, Jiyue will also build and develop its own charging network in China to meet consumer demand for smart electric vehicles, Geely said.
The Jiyue 01, which is expected to debut in the fourth quarter, will be built on Geely's Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) and have the backing of Baidu's cutting-edge and industry technology, according to the statement.
Geely's statement didn't provide much more information, but it's clear that Baidu's car-making efforts are making key progress, although the Jidu brand previously created by the two seems to have become a transition.
Jiyue shared several images of the Jiyue 01 in its first post published to its WeChat account.
Jidu was officially launched in March 2021 and released a limited edition of its so-called robocar, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition, on October 27, 2022, with a starting price of RMB 399,800 ($54,880)
On December 30, 2022, Jidu unveiled its second model, the Robo-02, at the Guangzhou auto show, where it showed off the Robo-01. The Jidu Robo-02 is an all-electric coupe with a similar familial design at the front as the Robo-01 SUV.
Jidu was 55 percent owned by Baidu and 45 percent by Geely at its inception. The Jiyue brand, however, is majority-owned by Geely, according to local media.
The operating entity of the Jiyue brand is Hangzhou Jiyuyue Automotive Technology Co Ltd, which was established on August 9 and is 65 percent owned by Geely, with the remaining 35 percent owned by a Baidu affiliate, according to Yicai.
The series of moves comes at a time of stricter regulations on car-making qualifications in China, but for Baidu, the ability to launch its first model under a new brand and name also paves the way for more car-making endeavors to follow.
Similar to Baidu, another local tech giant, Xiaomi, hasn't made any new progress in its car-making efforts over the past few months, even though it aims to have its first model in mass production by the first half of 2024.
Xiaomi founder, chairman and CEO Lei Jun held his latest annual personal speech yesterday, but didn't mention anything about the company's car business during the speech, which lasted three hours.
($1 = RMB 7.2845)
Regulatory filing images of Jiyue 01: