(Yicai) Sept. 13 -- Aito, an electric car brand co-developed by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies and automaker Seres Group, has launched a new, less expensive version of the M7 sports utility vehicle.
The new five-seat Aito M7, released yesterday, is priced at between CNY249,800 and CNY329,800 (USD34,270 and USD45,250), CNY40,000 (USD5,490) cheaper than the first model. Buyers will also enjoy a CNY6,000 (USD825) time-limited discount and the preemptive right to buy Huawei’s new Mate 60 or Mate X5 series phones.
Huawei invested CNY500 million (USD68.6 million) in the new Aito M7 to enhance the model's smart driving ability and comfort, Richard Yu, the Shenzhen-based firm’s executive director and chief executive officer of its consumer business group, said at a press briefing for its launch.
The SUV adds a range of cutting-edge technological features, including a light detection and ranging system and Huawei’s ADS 2.0, which enables high-level assisted driving without relying on high-definition maps. The smart driving function will cover the whole country by the end of the year, said Yu, who is also CEO of Huawei’s intelligent automotive solutions business.
Aito's monthly sales fell to less than 3,000 cars in February and March because of the price war in the Chinese EV market after reaching a record high 12,000 last October. Sales picked up in June to 7,000, but fell again in July and August as sales at electric vehicle startups such as Nio, Xpeng Motors, and Li Auto surged.
The M7 will account for more than 30 percent of Aito's total sales this year, Yu noted, adding that the flagship M9 will be released at the end of the year, taking the brand and its sales to a higher level.
But Huawei's managers still disagree on the direction of its auto business, Yicai learned from insiders. Huawei has three approaches: vertical parts supplier, intelligent systems provider through the Huawei Inside partnership model, and full-set solutions provider via the Huawei Smart Selection business model. Huawei’s collaboration with Seres on Aito falls in the third category, the one with the most intense cooperation.
In August, rumors said Huawei had made strategic adjustments to its business units to reduce investment in non-core businesses. The firm did not comment on the claims.
Huawei is also cooperating with BAIC Group’s Arcfox, JAC Motors, and Chery Automobile. A medium-to-large vehicle model with Chery Auto is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter of the year, while a model in cooperation with JAC will come out next year.
Editor: Futura Costaglione