Chinese search engine and AI company Baidu Inc has completed the registration of a new electric vehicle (EV) company, officially signaling a kick-off of its new venture with automaker Geely.
The new EV firm was registered in Shanghai on Tuesday and is named Jidu Auto (集度汽车), with a registered capital of 2 billion yuan ($309 million), a description on corporate data platform Qichacha showed.
There are five seats on the board of directors of the new company. Newly-appointed CEO Xia Yiping will be there, along with three other directors from Baidu and one from Geely, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Pandaily.
The business scope of Jidu Auto includes technical services and technology development of new energy vehicles (NEVs) and related parts, production of vehicles, as well as manufacturing and sales of automobiles, auto parts and accessories, among other related businesses.
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 its engineering capabilities, with the new passenger automobile to be produced at Geely’s factories.
Baidu previously confirmed to Pandaily that it would hold a majority stake and absolute voting power in the new firm while Geely would have a minority stake.
Baidu CEO Robin Li said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in February that the company will aim to launch a new EV model in around three years.
The company last Monday confirmed the appointment of Xia Yiping, who was the co-founder and chief technology officer of bike-sharing platform Mobike, as the CEO of the new EV company.
Following several meetings with former Baidu executive Xuyang Ren and Robin Li, Xia agreed to take on the role, he said in a previous 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.”
“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.
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.
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 autonomous driving platform Apollo, voice assistance platform DuerOS and Baidu Maps.
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 businesses.