Xiaomi Invests in Modified Car Startup Auto Custom

On September 25, Auto Custom, a modified car startup based in Tianjin, released its first self-designed small sports car model SC01, which means that the company has formally entered into the design, R&D, and sales of performance sports cars. 36Kr reported that mobile phone giant Xiaomi has invested tens of millions of yuan in the company.

In September 2021, Shunwei Capital bought up 5% of Auto Custom’s shares, according to commercial information platform Tianyancha. It’s worth noting that Shunwei Capital participated in the Pre-A round of funding for Auto Custom in July 2019. Liu De, Xiaomi‘s Co-founder and Senior Vice President, is also listed on the board of Auto Custom. Liu De is the core figure of Xiaomi‘s founding team and ecological chain.

Since its announcement of entering the automobile industry in March of last year, Xiaomi has invested in a series of companies, including self-driving computing chip maker Black Sesame Technologies, lidar developer Hesai Technology, battery manufacturer WeLion New Energy and SVOLT, and lithium resource developer Ganfeng Lithium. The main investor is Hubei Xiaomi Changjiang Industrial Investment Fund Partnership.

More indicative of Xiaomi‘s strategic maneuverings is its investment arm, which has invested in only a handful of companies in the automotive sector, known as Deepmotion, a self-driving company. Auto Custom is the second investment project in the automotive sector by this arm, according to 36Kr.

Founded in 2014 by Feng Xiaotong, a sports car enthusiast, Auto Custom has modified various models since then. In addition to refitting, the team also works with race companies to build high-performance race cars.

According to the information disclosed at the press conference, the SC01, a smaller sports car made by Auto Custom, chose not to put too much emphasis on intelligent technology. Instead, it gambled its core resources on performance, handling and other driving experiences. The SC01 weighs about 1.3 tons, has dual-motor four-wheel drive totaling 320KW, and a 0-100km acceleration time of less than 3.9 seconds. With a price tag less than 300,000 yuan ($41,893), it will be launched in the third quarter of 2023 and officially delivered in the fourth quarter.

Sports car model SC01 (Source: Auto Custom)

“We’re not going to invest in in-car entertainment, which adds both cost and weight.” At the press conference, Feng said bluntly, “By implementing the principle of being a sports car first, the SC01 will allow drivers enjoy competitive engineering technology while driving on the road.”

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The design of the vehicle is also based on motion. The SC01 uses an unconventional rear-center battery layout, giving the driver an ultra-low sitting position and reducing wind resistance.

In order to solve the supply chain and production problems, Auto Custom’s SC01 adopts existing auto parts, including the motor and battery, and only modifies the vehicle’s frame and other individual modeling parts. Auto Custom has accumulated engineering capability, a user base and market sense from years of modifying cars, which may be the main reason for Xiaomi‘s strategic investment.