Taking on Tesla: China's Jia Yueting aims to outmuscle Musk

Mon Apr 25, 2016 7:01am EDT
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Paul Lienert

BEIJING/DETROIT (Reuters) - Tomorrow's cars will be all-electric, self-driving, connected to high-speed communications networks ... and free.

And probably Chinese.

That, at least, is the vision of Jia Yueting, a billionaire entrepreneur and one of a new breed of Chinese who see their technology expertise re-engineering the automobile industry, and usurping Tesla Motors (TSLA.O: Quote), a U.S. pioneer in premium electric vehicle (EV) making.

"Tesla's a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era," Jia said in an interview at the Beijing headquarters of his Le Holdings Co, or LeEco. "But we're not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet.

"We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age," said Jia, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans.

A wave of EV start-ups has emerged in China after the government opened up the auto industry to deep-pocketed technology firms to drive a switch to cleaner electric as an eventual alternative to gasoline cars. Sceptics wonder just how start-ups like LeEco will deliver on their grand visions.

As a sign of intent, 43-year-old Jia last week unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to Tesla's Model S. The "smart, connected and self-driving" car will be displayed at this week's Beijing autoshow.

"People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs (BMWG.DE: Quote) and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us. It wasn't easy, but here we are," Jia told Reuters.   Continued...

 
Jia Yueting, co-founder and head of Le Holdings Co Ltd, also known as LeEco and formerly as LeTV, poses for a photo in front of a logo of his company after a Reuters interview at LeEco headquarters in Beijing, China, picture taken April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee