Chinese research firm Baidu to set up electric vehicle business


The Baidu Inc. logo is displayed at the company headquarters on July 3, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Wan Xiaojun | Visual China Group via Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China – Chinese research giant Baidu will set up an autonomous electric vehicle company, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The Beijing-based company will be the majority shareholder while Chinese automaker Geely takes a minority stake, the person said. Geely will be responsible for manufacturing the vehicles while Baidu will focus on the software behind the car.

Baidu and Geely declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Geely rose more than 13% after Reuters first broke the news.

Baidu relies heavily on ad revenue, but it is looking to diversify its business into other areas such as cloud computing and autonomous driving software, areas that analysts see as promising for the company.

The company has already tested its driverless car software, named Apollo, during public robotaxi trials in Beijing. Baidu also has its own map app and voice assistant technology called DuerOS, which can be fitted inside a vehicle.

China’s electric car market continues to grow, aided by government support in the form of subsidies and charging infrastructure.

Sales of pure electric vehicles from January to November rose 4.4% from a year ago, compared with a 7.6% drop in overall passenger car sales during the same period, according to the Chinese ministry. of Industry and Information Technologies.

Baidu will enter an increasingly competitive market, competing with Tesla as well as domestic electric vehicle companies such as Nio, Li Auto and Xpeng Motors.

The last three companies have all recently reported a sharp increase in car deliveries for December.

The Chinese tech giants have all invested in electric vehicles or automotive-related technologies. Alibaba is an investor in Zhiji, an electric vehicle company created by Chinese automaker SAIC Motor.

Meanwhile, the Didi company launched its own electric vehicle with automaker BYD, backed by billionaire Warren Buffett.

Elsewhere, Hyundai Motor said it was at the start of talks about a tie-up with Apple to make a car.

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