Li Auto Ventures into the Autonomous Truck Industry

On September 8th, it was learned that Li Auto is planning to enter the field of autonomous driving trucks, possibly led by VP of Intelligent Driving Business, Lang Xianpeng.

At present, Ideal has been using multiple headhunters to search for talent in the industry related to autonomous truck driving, and there have been interviews with employees from other autonomous driving companies at Ideal.

The job title is “Director of Truck Autonomous Driving Technology”. The main responsibilities of this position include “taking overall responsibility for the system design, development, testing, and experimental verification work of autonomous driving for factory logistics trucks, delivering safe and efficient autonomous driving products.”

In the qualifications for this position, candidates are required to have “over 10 years of work experience, with at least 6 years of relevant research and development management and technical architecture experience, leading the construction and optimization of core business systems in a company.” Additionally, having a background in mature port and terminal autonomous logistics implementation is preferred. Some headhunters have indicated that this position can be benchmarked against Alibaba‘s P9-P10 levels.

Li Auto said: Li Auto currently has no plans to enter the field of autonomous trucking. They have indeed been recruiting talents with backgrounds in autonomous trucking recently, but their application background is in the field of intelligent manufacturing, used for carrying out efficient component distribution projects for intelligent driving logistics.

The aforementioned informed sources stated that over the past year, there have been multiple discussions within ideals regarding the value points of L4-level autonomous driving technology. The main areas of implementation include passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles. By mid to late June this year, Ideals’ senior management basically finalized their entry into the field of autonomous driving trucks in the commercial vehicle sector.

As far as capabilities are concerned, there is an internal viewpoint within Li Auto that the company has accumulated a large amount of data through its passenger vehicle advanced driver assistance system. Data-driven technology holds great value in high-level intelligent driving systems at L3/L4 levels. From this perspective, Li Auto possesses cross-domain advantages.

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The aforementioned informed source also added that Ideal has already set certain goals internally for the project and aims to achieve phased results next year.

Before the ideal openness and transparency, it is difficult for the outside world to determine the true motives, business models, and potential team and business scale of entering the field of autonomous driving trucks.

An industry insider analyzed that in the early stages, Lixiang may establish a team of several dozen to a hundred people. They will continuously test their autonomous driving system by retrofitting existing trucks. Once the system becomes relatively mature and capable of mass production, Lixiang will face two choices for its business model: one is being an autonomous truck manufacturer, and the other is being an autonomous truck logistics operator. Both options have certain market sizes, but the latter has greater potential for expansion and may be more advantageous from a market value perspective.

An interesting perspective is that, in terms of the autonomous driving truck race track, both NIO and XPeng Motors, two of the three major new forces in car manufacturing, did not directly participate. Instead, they indirectly laid out their strategies through investments – NIO Capital invested in Yikong Zhijia for unmanned driving scenarios in mines and Miaoche Technology for long-haul logistics scenarios; while Xpeng Motors, as a cornerstone investor, invested in Qiangua Technology for the same long-haul logistics scenario.

This means that once Li Auto independently enters the field of autonomous driving trucks, it will form different camps under two modes with NIO and Xiaopeng, which will to some extent reflect the respective genes of the companies as well as the thinking logic and judgment of decision-makers.

Li Auto currently has certain strengths in incubating autonomous driving truck projects. In terms of its main business, Li Auto has experienced rapid sales growth this year and has already pulled ahead of NIO and XPeng Motors by a certain margin. Its delivery volume in the first half of the year exceeded the total delivery volume for 2022. In terms of market size, Li Auto‘s current market value is $42.25 billion, for reference, NIO‘s market value is $18.75 billion and XPeng Motors’ market value is $16.41 billion.

In terms of combat readiness reserves, the ideal second-quarter financial report shows that the company’s net profit for the first half of the year has offset the net losses of the previous three years. The full-year revenue in 2023 is expected to exceed one hundred billion yuan. At the same time, its enterprise free cash flow has increased to 1.31 billion US dollars, with a significant growth rate. As of June 30th, the company’s cash reserves reached 10.05 billion US dollars.

For ideals, this is indeed a good opportunity to develop new businesses.