China is the world's biggest and most rapidly electrifying auto market. China is the world’s biggest and most rapidly electrifying auto market.

SHANGHAI: Thought your smartphone was taking over your life? Your car may be next as Chinese firms lead a Big Tech stampede into auto manufacturing in their battle for more consumers.

Cars are the next major prize in the battle for digital territory, industry insiders say, and the deep pockets and data muscle of big Chinese tech firms will fuel even faster growth in “smart-electric” vehicles — and possibly hasten the arrival of autonomous cars.

In recent weeks, Chinese smartphone giants Huawei and Xiaomi, e-commerce leader Alibaba, and even DJI, the world’s top drone manufacturer, have thrown their hats into the ring.

“This sort of competition is a good thing and will greatly accelerate innovation,” William Li, founder, chairman and CEO of Chinese electric vehicle (EV) producer NIO, told AFP in an interview just ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show.

The first major auto industry gathering of the year opens to the public Wednesday with the global sector looking to China -– the world’s biggest and most rapidly electrifying auto market –- to lead the way into a post-pandemic future.

Sales in China contracted two percent to 25.1 million vehicles last year –- nearly one-third of the global total –- but are rapidly recovering thanks to the expanding popularity of electric cars.

Just a tiny fraction of Chinese sales until recently, EVs accounted for around nine percent in March, according to official figures.

China’s government expects new-energy vehicles –- which integrate the most advanced driving technology –- to comprise 25% of car sales by 2025, and recent announcements appear to bode well.

– ‘Lightning-fast’ –

Xiaomi, which has rapidly become one of the world’s biggest smartphone suppliers, plans to invest $10 billion over the next decade in a smart EV subsidiary, and Huawei will invest $1 billion this year.

Alibaba’s autonomous driving unit AutoX has partnered with Japan’s

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