Chinese search engine and AI company Baidu has confirmed that Mobike co-founder Xia Yiping will be the chief executive of its new electric vehicle firm, operated in tandem with Geely.
“Mr. Xia Yiping is an honorary graduate and an outstanding alumni of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. He was previously the head of Fiat Chrysler’s Asia-Pacific Smart Car Association Division, and was the co-founder and CTO of Mobike. He has made significant contributions to transforming the urban transportation and travel structure, has rich management experience in the field of smart cars and transportation, and dares to take on and meet challenges,” Baidu said in a statement to Pandaily.
“We welcome Mr. Xia Yiping to join Baidu’s new EV firm with Geely and look forward to his contribution to Baidu and the automobile industry,” the company said.
In early January, Baidu announced a strategic partnership with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group aimed at manufacturing electric vehicles. As part of a deal to set up an intelligent EV company, Baidu will provide in-vehicle software, while Geely will offer up its engineering capabilities, with the new passenger automobile to be produced at Geely’s factories.
Baidu CEO Robin Li said during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call last Thursday that the company will aim to launch a new EV model in around three years.
Following several meetings with former Baidu executive Xuyang Ren and Robin Li, Xia agreed to take on the role, he said in an interview with GeekPark.
“In this transition from diesel to electric, I believe the next race in the industry is producing a truly connected and intelligent vehicle,” Xia said. “After considering the offer for some time, I do believe this is where my interests and original aspirations lie.”
“I’ve always wanted to achieve one thing — to democratize high-end technology and promote it for all consumers through a larger market. I hope consumers can accept and adapt it for everyday use,” Xia said.
“The concept of electric vehicles isn’t new at all, but in the past few years, EVs have really reached the mass consumer level, and having more people use and enjoy electric cars is really important. The same goes for autonomous driving — the next step is to turn L4 autonomous vehicles into a reality, and promote them to hundreds of thousands of households,” he said, adding that this would be the new EV company’s mission for the next three years.
“It’ll be truly exciting if I can successfully build a relatively lower-priced driverless vehicle that can be afforded and enjoyed by most people,” Xia continued.
The incoming CEO previously worked at Fiat Chrysler’s Asia-Pacific arm and at Ford, where he was responsible for localizing and implementing the company’s in-vehicle communications and entertainment system SYNC across China.
In 2015, Xia co-founded Mobike and served as the company’s chief technology officer during a period in which the company expanded to 19 countries globally. Mobike was eventually acquired by Chinese food delivery giant Meituan in 2018 for $2.7 billion, following a downward spiral within China’s once-booming bike-sharing market.
Xia also noted that both Baidu and Geely share a common mindset when it comes to product development, and said he hoped the tie-up could become a leading example for the industry.
“Baidu is an open source software company while Geely is an open source hardware company — that’s why the companies are able to come together,” he said. “Internet companies used to have major cognitive differences with traditional auto manufacturers in terms of operational efficiency and management processes, making them very difficult to integrate with each other.”
“With Baidu and Geely, I hope we can show that through strategic cooperation with an auto company, it is possible to successfully utilize the best technologies and skills of both sides to create a good product. At the same time, I hope to show that it’s possible to productize a tech company’s software capabilities and introduce them to the market,” he added.
Geely’s open-source EV chassis base, dubbed Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA), is an 18 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) platform that relies on the use of aluminum to make vehicles lighter, as well as a front steering system for steady driving.
Baidu’s fourth quarter earnings for 2020 beat expectations, with a 52% year-on-year increase in non-marketing revenue — which includes its cloud and autonomous driving business.
SEE ALSO: Could Baidu and Geely’s Tie-up Challenge Tesla’s Dominance in China?
In early February, Baidu was reported to be on a hiring spree for the new EV company, bringing in directors, deputy directors and senior managers for marketing and public relations positions in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai.
The next-generation vehicles are expected to be sold under a new brand and loaded with Baidu’s full set of internet connectivity infrastructures, including the autonomous driving platform Apollo, voice assistance platform DuerOS and Baidu Maps.