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Believe it or not: China's new Xiaomi SU7 EV has its sights set on Porsche and Tesla

The Chinese smartphone maker says it can take on the automotive world's top luxury brands.

I chuckled when I heard Chinese smartphone and device maker Xiaomi (XIACF) was targeting luxury automakers like Porsche when it unveiled its SU7 EV sedan at an event in Beijing.

Then I took a look at it — and read the specs. Xiaomi may have tech gadget roots, but the company, and its billionaire founder, are dead serious.

The SU7 is almost a clone of Porsche’s Taycan EV and Panamera sedan (we’ll see if Porsche eventually has anything official to say on this). From a design standpoint the front lights remind me of McLaren’s 720S supercar, but the rest looks all German sports sedan.

Underneath the skin, Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun said the EV will use battery cells made from China’s CATL, known for its LFP battery technology, as well as from Chinese EV maker BYD. The SU7 will target a range of 800 km (around 500 miles), powered by its HyperEngine electric motors, which are more powerful than Tesla’s motors, Lei said.

ANUNCIO

In the high spec, dual motor trim, that powertrain will give the SU7 a sub-3 second 0-100kph (62mph) time—nearly as fast as Tesla’s Model S Plaid.

Visitors film around Xiaomi's first electric vehicle, the SU7, displayed at an event in Beijing, China December 28, 2023. REUTERS/Florence Lo
Visitors film around Xiaomi's first electric vehicle, the SU7, displayed at an event in Beijing, China, Dec. 28, 2023. (Florence Lo/REUTERS) (REUTERS / Reuters)

The Tesla comparisons don’t end there. Lei said Xiaomi will use “hypercasting” techniques similar to Tesla’s gigacasting, where giant hydraulic presses make larger chassis pieces, enabling faster and simpler production.

Xiaomi’s billionaire founder declined to give a starting price or availability date, though he did say it would be a relatively expensive luxury offering.

“Our goal is to build a vehicle that matches up to Porsche and Tesla [models], a dream car for the new era of the automobile industry,” Lei said at the launch event. He went on to say that his goal is for Xiaomi to be a top five global carmaker in the next 15 to 20 years.

The Xiaomi SU7 (credit: Xiaomi)
The Xiaomi SU7 (Xiaomi) (Xiaomi)

In the interim, Xiaomi will use Chinese state-owned automaker Beijing Automotive (BAIC) to manufacture the SU7, in addition to a second forthcoming EV. Xiaomi has said in the past it will invest $1.4 billion into its EV effort, which also includes software development for autonomous driving and its HyperOS infotainment system, which is powered by Android.

Though audacious, Lei Jun is not someone to be taken lightly. He started Xiaomi and grew the company from a cheap mobile phone maker to one that makes innovative and user-centered devices that now boasts passionate users known as “Mi Fans.”

Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun speaks at an event on the company's first electric vehicle (EV) SU7, in Beijing, China December 28, 2023. REUTERS/Florence Lo
Going after Tesla: Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun speaks at an event on the company's first electric vehicle SU7, in Beijing, China, Dec. 28, 2023. (Florence Lo/REUTERS) (REUTERS / Reuters)

Xiaomi is also not the first mobile device maker to enter the EV space. China’s Huawei is targeting 600,000 unit sales of its Aito EV by 2024, and even Japan’s Sony will make its Afeela EV with partner Honda by mid-decade.

The luxury EV space is hypercompetitive in China — it includes the likes of the Porsche Taycan (and sister car Audi e-tron GT), Tesla Model S, and NIO’s just-announced ET9. The question is whether Lei Jun’s tech-savvy “Mi Fans” will step up to buy SU7 EVs in the likely 400,000+ yuan ($60,000+) range that are not made by prestige automakers like Porsche.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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