Date
23 September 2017
LeEco head Jia Yueting  shows on a computer screen a picture of the LeSEE concept car at the company's headquarters in Beijing, Photo: Reuters
LeEco head Jia Yueting shows on a computer screen a picture of the LeSEE concept car at the company's headquarters in Beijing, Photo: Reuters

Taking on Tesla: China’s Jia Yueting aims to outmuscle Musk

A Chinese technology firm seeks to beat Tesla Motors in the premium electric vehicle (EV) market with an all-electric, self-driving, web-connected car.

“Tesla’s a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era,” Jia Yueting told Reuters in an interview at the Beijing headquarters of his Le Holdings Co. Ltd., or LeEco.

“But we’re not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet.

“We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age,” the 43-year-old Jia said.

A wave of EV start-ups has emerged in China after the government opened up the auto industry to deep-pocketed technology firms to drive a switch to cleaner electric as an eventual alternative to gasoline cars.

Skeptics wonder just how start-ups like LeEco will deliver on their grand visions.

Last week Jia unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to the Model S designed by Tesla founder Elon Musk. 

The “smart, connected and self-driving” car will be displayed at this week’s Beijing autoshow.

“People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us. It wasn’t easy, but here we are,” Jia told the news agency.

LeEco hopes to start producing a version of the LeSEE in a few years at a plant being built near Las Vegas by US strategic partner Faraday Future, in which Jia has invested.

Those cars would be sold in the United States and China.

Further ahead, the plan is to produce electric cars in China, too, probably through a partnership with BAIC Motor.

The electric cars will have a “disruptive” pricing model similar to phones and TV sets LeEco markets in China, Jia says.

His company, often called China’s Netflix, will sell movies, TV shows, music and other content and services to drivers of its cars.

That’s why he says “one day our cars will be free”.

Nearer-term, the disruption is more likely to be “double the performance at half the price”.

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RA/CG

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