Alibaba Group Holding has taken a huge step towards participating in the ever-growing electric vehicle sector with the launch of a sedan with wireless charging. The e-commerce giant is partnering with SAIC Motor, China’s largest car company, to create a new brand.
In a similar vein, Taiwanese iPhone assembler, Foxconn Technology Group recently announced its own joint venture with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, China’s largest privately owned auto group.
The moves reiterate the growing ambition of Asia’s largest tech groups in the automobile industry as they collaborate with established car makers to speed up market entry and rivalthe likes of Tesla in the world’s biggest vehicle market.
Alibaba is one of the major investors in domestic EV startup Xpeng Motors. The firm is looking to increase its stake in the market at a time when investors are sending shares of Tesla and Chinese rivals soaring.
Unveiled under the brand IM — for “intelligence in motion,” the sedan was developed by a joint venture between Alibaba, state-owned SAIC and Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Development, an investment arm of the city government. The venture was officially launched on Christmas Day, with SAIC having the largest stake, with the other two holding 18% each of the partnership.
The sedan comes with innovative features that include a new solid-state battery from Contemporary Amperex Technology, China’s largest battery maker, that has a relatively higher energy density and chips from U.S. tech group Nvidia. The vehicle also offers a self-park feature and smart phone functions like photo-shooting and social media sharing.
Consumers can start pre-ordering the vehicle in April at the annual Shanghai auto show, with a second model, a sports unit vehicle, targeted for delivery in 2022.
“The partnership will help SAIC add more premium models to its portfolio, thanks to Alibaba’s reputation,” said Ivan Su, an analyst with Morningstar in Hong Kong. “Alibaba’s expertise in customer analytics and distribution channels will help boost sales,”he added.
“The tech companies already have so much consumer data: where we like to eat, what we buy, where we go… One area that is currently a ‘black box’ for tech companies is what we do when we are driving,” said Le Tu, managing director of Beijing-based Sino Auto Insights. “If they get access to that, combine it with the data they already have, they can then anticipate what our needs are and develop services and products that they know we need.“
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