China’s online search-engine Baidu looks set to enter the electric vehicle industry in a big way according to company insiders. The internet giant is looking at either establishing a majority-owned venture with an automaker or becoming an automaker itself.
Baidu already develops autonomous driving technology and has invested heavily in the Chinese EV startup WM Motors. Reuters reports that China’s leading internet search-engine corporation is already holding preliminary talks with automakers, from which decisions have not yet been made. Insider sources could not be identified since the talks are private.
So far Baidu has held talks with Geely, GAC and FAW. None of these firms would elaborate on the talks to Reuters when questioned. An indication of the enormity of such a deal was seen in the response to the Reuters report in that Geely’s share price rose 5% and GACs rose by 1% directly afterwards.
Baidu is not unfamiliar with the transport industry since it already established Apollo autonomous driving unit in 2017, which supplies automotive technology to Ford, Geely, Toyota and Volkswagen, among others. Baidu also operates the autonomous taxi service Go Robotaxi with plans to expand to 30 cities in three years. Last week the company got approval to test 5 Robotaxis without safety drivers in Beijing.
In the very disruptive transport industry, new companies buying up or investing in electric vehicle makers are challenging the heritage car companies everywhere. This has seen companies like Amazon investing heavily in zero-emissions vehicle manufacturers and technology, or for example, ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing who launched a purpose-built van for ride haling services with BYD last month.
Unlike Baidu, some of these new vehicle makers are not even remotely connected or experienced in transport industries before they begin such as Hong Kong real estate and health insurance giant Evergrande that has bought up and invested in know-how and automakers across the globe and has now also launched its own brand Hengchi with a palette of electric vehicles.
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