As U-turns go this seems pretty dramatic, if a report by Reuters is on the money.
According to unnamed sources cited by the news agency, Huawei, in collaboration with Chinese automakers, is gearing up to make electric vehicles (EVs) under its own brand. Some models might even be launched later this year, according to at least two sources.
Yet only a few months previously, according to China’s National Business Daily, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei seemed dead set against involvement in EV manufacturing. "Whoever proposes to build a car can be transferred from his post," he was reported to have said.
Reuters indicates, however, that Ren has changed his mind. Huawei, say its sources, has already started internally designing EVs to target a mass market. Talks with state-owned Changan Automobile and other automakers, to use their car plants, are reportedly underway.
Sources also name-checked China-based BluePark New Energy Technology, which specializes in the design, R&D and sales of automobiles – and is part of BAIC Group, a Chinese state-owned automobile group – as another company that Huawei is in discussions with.
Richard Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, which recently took Huawei’s smart car solutions under its wing, is apparently going to shift his focus from smartphones to EVs and manufacturing. The Chinese supplier sold off its Honor unit because of US-led constrictions on the budget‑smartphone unit's supply chain.
The narrative surrounding the Reuters report is of course that Huawei is keen to diversify into EVs, a growing market, because of geopolitical squeezes at its overall telecom equipment business (not just smartphones).
We like cars, says Huawei, but only up to a point
A Huawei spokesman poured cold water on the EV manufacturing claim.
"Huawei is not a car manufacturer," he said, responding to Reuters' report. "However, through ICT, we aim to be a digital car-oriented and new-added components provider, enabling car OEMs to build better vehicles."
A week after disposing of Honor last November, Huawei reshaped its consumer business to target the fast-growing smart car market.
Ren said at the time that the consumer business group, Huawei's biggest source of revenue, would be restructured into a unit for smart terminals and smart car parts. Huawei's smart car offerings had been previously managed by its ICT business.
The CEO pointedly added that "Huawei does not build complete cars, but focuses on ICT technology to help auto companies build good cars."
Huawei also agreed to work with Changan Automobile and CATL, a supplier of EV technology, to jointly build high-end electric smart cars, although Reuters' sources maintain this is entirely separate from what they see as the Chinese supplier's new push into EV manufacturing for the mass market.
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— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading