(Image credit: CnEVPost)
A prominent figure in China's smartphone industry has joined Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI), sparking speculation that the carmaker may follow Nio (NYSE: NIO) and make phones. However, this was denied.
"Many investors and users have asked if Li Auto is going to make phones as some talent from mobile brands have joined us. The answer is that there are no such plans," Li Xiang, the company's founder, chairman and CEO, said on Weibo today.
Over the past eight years, at least 15 percent of the talent on Li Auto's teams, including R&D and operations, has come from phone brands, he said.
Li Auto's recruitment of talent from the phone industry is not a recent move, with top talent from the phone industry being a key underpinning of the company's capabilities, Li said.
Earlier this month, there was widespread discussion in China's tech sector about the departure of Violet Song, a product manager at phone brand iQOO, a sub-brand of smartphone giant Vivo.
Song, who previously worked at Huawei, joined Vivo in 2019 as a product manager at iQOO and led the launches of several new phones for the brand.
(Violet Song. Image from her Weibo)
China's smartphone industry is dominated by male executives, and new product launches rarely see female product leaders launching products. Song's several product launches have quickly made her one of the most talked-about people in the industry in China.
On September 15, local media outlet Wuhan Morning Post reported that Song had joined Li Auto.
That came just as Li Auto's local counterpart Nio was about to release its first smartphone and begin previewing the device, sparking speculation that Li Auto might also be launching its own phone.
Nio launched the new EC6 in a less than 16-minute launch event on the evening of September 15, and a phone was featured multiple times in the first 50 seconds, raising suspicions that this could be its upcoming first phone model.
Earlier today, Nio announced that it will be hosting a Nio IN 2023 event in Shanghai on September 21, starting at 9 am Beijing time, where it will debut the company's full-stack technology layout and will unveil a new mobile internet product.
Nio didn't specify, but the mobile internet product is supposed to be its first phone model.