Jidu Auto, a joint venture between Chinese giants Baidu Inc. and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, aims to spend 50 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) over the next five years on developing smart-car technology.
The company intends to hire between 2,500 and 3,000 staff for the project over the next two to three years, around 500 of which will be software engineers, it said. The branding for the nascent auto marque is set to be unveiled in the third quarter of 2021, a spokesperson added. Baidu owns 55 percent of Jidu and Geely has a 45 percent stake in the company.
The first model from Jidu will be an electric vehicle targeting launch within three years and designed to look like a robot in order to appeal to a young clientele, CEO Xia Yiping said in an interview with Reuters. The company then plans to release one new model every year or 18 months, he’s cited as saying.
Investment in EVs has been hotting up in China, where Xiaomi Corp. recently announced an ambitious $10 billion plan to enter the fray, even though its expertise lies more in everyday consumer items like smartphones and rice cookers. For its part, Baidu has been investing in self-driving technology for years and its January announcement of the collaboration with Geely gave its share price a jolt.
This year alone, Geely has forged major collaboration pacts with companies from Baidu to Apple Inc.’s Taiwanese manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group, Tencent Holdings Ltd. and electric-car upstart Faraday Future. More recently it announced plans for a new brand of electric car called Zeekr as it seeks to become more competitive in a segment of the EV market dominated by Tesla Inc.
Baidu’s autonomous-driving platform, Apollo, could give Geely a much-needed technology edge in developing smart EVs, while partnering with China’s largest homegrown auto brand might help Baidu expand its ecosystem as it competes with other internet giants like Tencent and Alibaba.