Henry Xia, a Co-founder of Xpeng Motors Technology Ltd., asks his car about traffic conditions before heading off to work. Xia is only 35 years old and is the most senior executive at Xpeng Motors but hasn't made a single car, doesn't own a single factory, and doesn't have the necessary production license from the government. Not yet anyway.
In a test drive of Xpeng’s first crossover around a drab cement office park in Guangzhou, China, the roomy SUV drives smoothly, with a Tesla-like panoramic windshield and sleek exterior. But it’s the voice controls, streaming music, live video, driver-tracking maps and other software that reveal the auto ambitions of the company’s Chinese tech backers. Xpeng is making the equivalent of a smartphone with a steering wheel.
Xia explains why the company nicknamed this car David: “We’re going up against Goliath,” he says, referring to the hundreds of automakers churning out electric vehicles in China, where half of the world’s electric vehicles are sold. “It’s not about the physical car anymore, which anyone can now manufacture,” Xia says, “but about building a robot on wheels.”
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