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Huawei takes the wheel in auto partnership after first car flops

In a torrid entry to the auto business, Huawei's first car has been plagued with quality problems and weak sales and it has downgraded its collaboration with automaker Seres.

After selling just 7,000 units of the first model, the Seres SF5, in seven months, it has been superseded by a new EV, the AITO M5, Sina Tech reported. Online forums are filled with complaints from new owners about the car's short battery range, high power consumption and power failures.

Huawei is no longer selling the SF5 through its retail storefronts, and online it has stopped promoting it in favor of the M5. Prospective buyers can no longer book test drives, Sina said.

However, Seres, a unit of little-known component manufacturer Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, says it is still taking orders for the SF5.

It is a long way from the launch of the partnership in April, when the head of Huawei's consumer group, Richard Yu, set an annual sales target of 5 million vehicles.

At another launch last month Yu unveiled the M5, the first under the new high-end AITO brand, a mid-to-high-end SUV, equipped with the Huawei Harmony OS smart cockpit.

Yu said the M5 "integrates Huawei's industrial design, engineering technology, system software and the ecosystem advantages of the Harmony OS." But he barely mentioned Seres, underlining its role as the junior partner in the relationship.

The big vendor led development of the new model, relegating Seres to the role of OEM.

Industry publication Auto Home said there was a widely-held belief that "Huawei has borrowed the factory and qualifications" of Seres to build cars, turning it into a Huawei foundry.

It also noted it was unusual for a new brand like AITO to be introduced so shortly after the introduction of another new brand.


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Despite Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei's well-known ban on the company building its own car, in its revamped collaboration the vendor certainly comes close, playing the role of industrial design team as well as supplying components and solutions.

But the Seres partnership is not the only Huawei car industry collaboration that is struggling for traction.

The first vehicle to carry Huawei's HI auto solution, the Alpha-S EV built by BAIC's Arcfox, has sold just 2,100 vehicles since April, SCMP.com reported.

Huawei is supplying its solutions to other auto giants, including GAC and Changan, but there is limited upside in these partnerships where the auto firms are determined not to cede the digital business to ICT players like Huawei.

So there is a lot riding on the new M5.

Huawei did not respond to Light Reading queries.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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