Fighting the Robotaxi market again, Xiaopeng Motors and traditional car companies meet on a narrow road

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In his speech at the 2022 Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Auto Show, Xiaopeng Motors CEO He Xiaopeng talked about his views on innovation.

He believes that automotive innovation must have three points:

  • First of all, automobiles are bulk consumer goods, which are closely related to the safety of consumers and must be sufficiently safe.

  • Secondly, the car also applies to the barrel theory. A certain car can have the advantages of long board, but it must not have short board.

  • Finally, whether the differentiated invention can be commercialized on a certain scale.

He further emphasized that for a company to innovate successfully, it needs innovative ideas and a sufficiently large degree of innovation.

In the past few years, Xpeng Motors has often announced many new achievements and businesses through the “1024 Technology Day”, constantly emphasizing its innovation and technological attributes. Looking at Xpeng Motors’ innovation in intelligence in the past few years, it has indeed achieved many achievements.

Intelligent driving technology is upgraded again

At the event site, Liao Qinghong, vice president of Xiaopeng Motors, played a video of Xiaopeng Motors road test. In the video, Xiaopeng Motors equipped with the latest intelligent driving system drives in the urban area of ​​Guangzhou, can identify surrounding vehicles and flexibly avoid them, and finally parks in the garage autonomously.

Regarding the intelligent use of Xiaopeng Motors, Liao Qinghong introduced:

  • The utilization rate of high-speed NGP reached 85.59%, and the overall penetration rate reached 62%;

  • In-vehicle voice usage rate reached 99.87%;

  • The cumulative number of automatic parking has reached 5.38 million;

  • The mileage of assisted driving has reached more than 800 million kilometers.

Liao Qinghong said that the positioning of Xiaopeng Motors is not a new car company, but a technology company. “In more than seven years, we have owned more than 3,500 patents, and 50% of the patents are related to smart cars.”

The high number of patents of Xpeng Motors is related to its high investment in R&D. According to the financial report of Xiaopeng Motors in the first half of 2021, Xiaopeng Motors invested 20.8% of its revenue in R&D, far exceeding the R&D investment of most car brands.

In addition to intelligent driving, flying cars, and robotic horses, which are familiar to most people, the R&D field of Xiaopeng Motors also includes the Robotaxi market.

In the Q3 conference call of last year’s third quarter earnings report, Xiaopeng Motors CEO He Xiaopeng announced that he would explore the Robotaxi business in 2022. In fact, as early as 2019, Xiaopeng Motors launched the new energy vehicle travel platform “Youpeng Travel” to enter the online car-hailing market, but there has been no following since then.

To a certain extent, exploring the Robitaxi business can be seen as Xpeng Motors’ heart for the online car-hailing market. On the other hand, it also proves that Xpeng Motors is highly confident in its autonomous driving technology.

In response to the latest progress in the Robotaxi business, Xinzhijia learned from Li Pengcheng, vice president of Xiaopeng Motors and general manager of brand public relations, that the Robotaxi business of Xiaopeng Motors is in progress. Whether it can be launched in the second half of this year according to the original plan depends on its business maturity. Depends. Li Pengcheng pointed out that the significance of Xpeng Motors exploring the Robotaxi business is to run through the intelligent driving system. The purpose of launching the Youpeng travel platform was to test the intelligent parking and assisted driving system.

He emphasized: “We are not entering this field to compete with other companies that have Robotaxi business.”

In addition to Xpeng Motors, Tesla also seems interested in entering the Robotaxi market.

On Tesla’s Autopilot Day in 2019, Musk announced that he would launch the “Tesla Network” plan. Once Tesla is capable of autonomous driving, all Tesla vehicles can be modified to act as Robotaxi when they are idle – only Requires taking out the pedals and wheels, inserting something in the place where the wheels were, plus a few other small changes.

According to Musk’s vision, Tesla can use its fleet and users’ idle vehicles as Robotaxi’s operating vehicles, and users can obtain a certain income from it to reduce the depreciation cost of vehicles, and passengers pay less than the cost of a bus ticket .

In April 2022, Musk revealed at the opening ceremony of the Texas factory in the United States that Tesla is developing a model dedicated to Robotaxi, which may mean that Tesla is still working on the “Tesla Network” plan.

Perhaps one day in the future, Xpeng Motors, Tesla and other car companies can launch the Robotaxi business according to their plans and explore new business models.

New arena for old rivals

Compared with Xpeng Motors and Tesla, which lack operating experience, SAIC, GAC, Geely, Volkswagen and other car companies that have provided online car-hailing services for many years may have more advantages.

At present, the travel platform built by car companies has become an important force in the domestic shared travel market. The reasons for the emergence of these platforms include the ambition of car companies to expand their business and their self-rescue under severe circumstances.

In 2015, Didi and Uber China were fighting fiercely. At that time, car companies launched shared travel platforms, trying to grow in the gap between giants and stalemates. However, as the taxi-hailing war finally came to an end with Uber China being acquired by Didi, the domestic shared travel market has almost become the bag of Didi.

On the other hand, the global auto market was cold in 2018. According to a report released by the China Passenger Car Association, global car sales fell by 1% year-on-year, and Chinese car sales fell by 3% year-on-year.

In order to reduce the backlog of inventory, car companies have taken various measures in the face of sluggish market sales, one of which is to launch a travel platform with a large number of cars. These include international giants such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and Daimler, as well as domestic companies such as BAIC, Changan, and Jianghuai, and even new car-making forces such as Xiaopeng Motors and Xinte Automobile also have related actions.

In addition to the cold sales choking the throat, changes in the times also spur the transformation of car companies.

“In the era of Internet travel, the brand of hardware will become weaker and weaker. If traditional car companies do not take the first step, they are likely to become the foundry and hardware provider of travel companies, just like we don’t know the manufacturer of Mobike at all. Who is the same. Car companies must complete the transformation from manufacturing to IT companies as soon as possible.” Xiao Yong, deputy general manager of GAC New Energy Vehicle Co., Ltd., once said.

Perhaps because of this, car companies with similar views, such as Volkswagen and BMW, have publicly announced that they will turn from car manufacturers to travel service providers, and have established travel subsidiaries and service fleets.

The layout of the shared travel market can also add icing on the cake to the original business of car companies.

With the help of the traffic from shared travel services, car companies can expand their business scope by expanding their business scope while increasing product sales. In addition, the accumulated users can provide timely and objective feedback for their future testing of new technologies.

In this regard, Xpeng Motors seems to have failed to operate an online car-hailing platform before. It said that the Robotaxi business will be launched through the pre-installed Robotaxi software and hardware capabilities, and will choose to cooperate with travel operators in the future.

Xiaopeng Motors, with relatively advanced autonomous driving technology, lacks experience in online car-hailing operations; some traditional car companies have relatively little experience in autonomous driving technology and relatively rich experience in online car-hailing operations. The two rivals in the field of car manufacturing may meet again in the new arena in the future, and a wonderful show will be staged again.

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