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Electric cars in China

Xiaomi CEO takes charge of new EV unit, leading team of 300

Chinese smartphone maker assembles workforce out of 20,000 applicants

Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun heads the Chinese company's new electric-vehicle unit.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- China's Xiaomi, the world's second-largest smartphone maker, has taken the next step in its entry into the electric vehicle market with a new unit headed by CEO Lei Jun himself.

The Beijing-based company has invested an initial 10 billion yuan ($1.55 billion) into the new unit, Xiaomi EV, according to a Wednesday news release, and will spend $10 billion in the EV business over the next 10 years.

The move comes even as Hong Kong-listed Xiaomi aims to overtake Samsung Electronics in smartphone sales within three years, having already surpassed Apple.

"I am willing to put all my personal reputation on the line and fight for the future of our smart electric vehicle," Lei, the founder who also serves as Xiaomi's chairman, said in March when he announced plans to enter the EV sector.

Since then, the Xiaomi EV team has been in communication with over 10 industry peers and partners, the release said. The unit has hired about 300 employees from over 20,000 applicants.

Last month, Xiaomi was reported to have held talks with debt-laden property developer China Evergrande Group to buy the latter's EV business. Xiaomi President Wang Xiang told an earnings conference Xiaomi was in talks with companies involved in the auto industry, including Evergrande, but said no deal had been reached.

Xiaomi last month announced its acquisition of self-driving technology developer DeepMotion for about $77 million. It hopes to advance the development of Level 4 autonomous vehicles, which can operate without driver controls under normal conditions.

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