Key progress has been made recently in Xiaomi‘s automaking efforts. Chinese media outlet LatePost learned exclusively that the Beijing-based tech giant’s first car will be a medium-sized fastback sedan referred to by internal code “Modena,” with two versions for which the prices have not yet been decided.
The current pricing scheme discussed internally involves one version positioned in the range of 260,000-300,000 yuan ($37,000-$43,000), and another version above 350,000 yuan ($50,000).
The two versions of the Xiaomi vehicle will have differences in terms of EIC (electric, instrumentation, and computer) systems and intelligent driving. One of them is based on the mainstream 400V platform, equipped with BYD’s ferrous lithium phosphate battery, and adopting the 5R1V (5 millimeter wave radars and 1 camera) multi-sensor fusion scheme provided by Continental AG, which is same as the 2021 Li ONE.
The expensive version is based on the 800V high-voltage platform and is equipped with CATL’s Kirin battery, which is expected to charge 80% in 15 minutes. Intelligent driving capabilities are supported by the NVIDIA Orin X chip and laser radar, and the algorithm has been developed by Xiaomi itself.
Both versions adopt Qualcomm’s next generation intelligent cockpit chip (the 8295). This chip has not yet been mass-produced, and it is expected to be installed on the Jidu ROBO-01 for the first time in the second half of this year.
According to sources close to Xiaomi, the firm is also conducting R&D for its second production car referred to by internal code “Le Mans,” which is planned to be launched in 2025. This car adopts the same basic platform as Modena, but the electric drive system is powered by three motors, and the electronic control software is self-developed by Xiaomi. The electronic control software of the first car originated from United Microelectronics Corporation and Shenzhen Inovance Tech.
Xiaomi announced plans to make its own cars in March 2021, and its first model is planned to be launched in the first quarter of 2024. This prototype vehicle is currently in the trial production stage. In mid-to-late December, two versions of the Modena were towed to Mohe, Heilongjiang, located in China’s remote northeastern corner, to verify the performance, durability and reliability of the vehicles in extremely cold climates.
According to the plan, the trial production phase will last until the middle of next year, then trial production preparation will be carried out at a factory in the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area. If all goes well, the first Xiaomi car may be released by the end of this year.
There are now more than 2,000 employees at Xiaomi Auto, and half of the core executives have been transferred from Xiaomi Corp. From the perspective of equity, Xiaomi Auto is still a subsidiary of Xiaomi Corp. Internally, Xiaomi Auto is equivalent to a first-level department within the group, and it is referred to as the “Auto Department.” There are more than a dozen secondary departments under this division. Among them, departments related to vehicle R&D are mainly based in Shanghai, the head of vehicle hardware system operations is from Geely, the head of power department is from United Electronics, and the head of intelligent manufacturing department is from Magna.
Yesterday, firm founder Lei Jun held a staff meeting at Xiaomi Auto, during which the executive exhibited strong optimism in the firm’s own product. “Our car will definitely catch fire,” said Lei, using an expression that refers to a product that sells very well. “The only worry is that if the battery price rises again, we may become a super luxury car.”
During the meeting, Lei also indicated that automarking really burns funds. “I always felt that William Li [The founder of Nio] spent money quickly. After entering the market, I found that we were not spending slowly.” In the past two years, Xiaomi Auto has spent $900 million on R&D and factory construction, and when its first car is delivered, the whole endeavor will have cost about $2.7 billion. If supply chains and marketing are included, the project will have cost an additional $1.4 billion, bringing the total to almost $5 billion.
Lei Jun once made an internal comment that he is spending 50% of his energy on Xiaomi Auto, and his goal in 2022 is to test drive 100 vehicles. According to LatePost, Lei Jun often borrows cars from friends and employees. He often goes to the company’s underground garage to “stroll around” and see what cars the employees drive. If he sees interesting cars, he asks on business communications platform Feishu, “Whose car is this? Could you lend me a few days?” People familar with the matter also told Pandaily that an investor once told Lei Jun that successful automaking requires a deep familiarity with the product, so Lei drives to commute by himself every day. He usually goes to work at 8 am and leaves late at night.