While drawing more customers to HiCar, Huawei has also made rapid progress in engaging domestic carmakers to develop intelligent full-electric vehicles.
Jianghuai Automobile Co. this week disclosed it will collaborate with Huawei to develop sensors and intelligent cockpits for next-generation EVs.
JAC is the fourth customer Huawei has signed up among major domestic auto manufacturers seeking to develop smart EVs.
Last month, GAC Motor Co., a major state-owned automaker, disclosed that it plans to invest 800 million yuan ($123 million) to develop an intelligent electric utility vehicle with Huawei. The vehicle is scheduled to be mass-produced starting in late 2023. It will be equipped with Huawei’s computing and communication technology and offer Level 4 autonomy, GAC said.
At the Shanghai auto show in April this year, BAIC Motor Co. launched an updated electric utility vehicle featuring L3 autonomous driving technology developed by Huawei. The vehicle is set to go on sale in China in the fourth quarter.
Huawei is also assisting Changan Automobile Co. in developing an intelligent electric crossover with the goal of competing with the Tesla Model Y and the Volkswagen ID.6 in China. The crossover is expected to be displayed at the Guangzhou auto show in November.
But not every domestic carmaker is equally enthusiastic about hiring Huawei to develop smart EVs.
At SAIC Motor Corp.’s annual shareholder meeting in late June, Chen Hong, chairman of the largest state-owned automaker in China, made clear the company sees autonomous driving technology as the “soul” of its future intelligent EVs.
For that reason, SAIC wants to keep the technology under its full control and won’t use a powerful technology company such as Huawei as a total solution provider for self-driving vehicle development projects, Chen noted.
Huawei has probably sensed such reluctance while seeking to expand its customer base. To diversify revenue sources within the auto sector, the company has also tapped its extensive sales network of electronic products to market vehicles for customers.
In April, Huawei’s stores in major Chinese cities started to serve as showrooms for the SF5, a range-extended electric crossover developed by a small domestic light-vehicle maker, Sokon. The vehicle is equipped with Huawei’s HiCar system.
Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment supplier and major smartphone maker, has been expelled from the U.S. market, but also barred from accessing U.S. technologies including Google’s Android operating system, since 2019.
That has dealt a heavy blow to the company’s smartphone business, which used to be its largest revenue source. As a result, Huawei’s revenue plunged 29 percent from a year earlier to 320 billion yuan in the first half of 2021, according to the company’s latest financial report.
To make up for the loss of revenue from the U.S. sanctions, Huawei probably has no way out but to accelerate its foray in the domestic auto industry.