All eyes on Xiaomi car to see if it can trump rivals

2024-04-01 10:49:20China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

No model has ever garnered more attention in China than the Xiaomi SU7, which was launched on Thursday night in Beijing.

It may sound unbelievable but the launch event attracted more than 40 million views on Xiaomi Auto's Weibo alone. Even guessing its price range had been a trending topic on China's social media platforms for weeks in a row.

But it's understandable. The SU7 is the first vehicle from a phone maker: Apple has canceled its car-making plans and Huawei insists that it is not "making" vehicles, although it sells smart driving solutions.

The Xiaomi SU7 has some eye-catching features, including its acceleration, range, as well as its ecosystem that allows other Xiaomi products to work seamlessly with the car.

But that would not have made it a phenomenon without Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi, who is a marketing master in the fast-changing consumer electronics sector and knows full well the power of social media.

One key to successful marketing of consumer electronics is about being a hot topic of fans and consumers, which includes whetting their appetite by offering clues or even rumors and thus affect their emotions.

That could possibly explain the date of its launch and even Lei's words "our model will be a little expensive" hit the headlines.

Lei has storytelling abilities rarely seen in other well-known businessmen in China. He always dots his speech with statistics and comes up with new ways to describe commonplace things.

Zhou Hongyi, CEO of network security company 360, said both Xiaomi and 360 sold computer cameras quite a while ago, but Lei emphasized that Xiaomi's were completely made of glass and they became hits.

Zhou asked his engineers whether theirs were made of glass as well. "They said: 'Of course'. I asked them why they did not tell buyers and they said they thought people knew. 'No, they don't', I told them," said Zhou.

The tactic has proved useful even today. In one of his videos, Lei toured the workshops and said: "Isn't it beautiful, our mirror-like paint finish?" Such videos usually have millions of views on Lei's Weibo account, where he has more than 20 million followers.

But it was like a joke in the eyes of those working in the automotive industry. A blogger, who works for Volkswagen's Jetta brand, recorded a video of its workshop and asked: "Aren't our paint finishes the same, Mr Lei?"

Others frowned at Lei's detailed comparison between the SU7 and Tesla's Model 3 at the launch event. Pages of items were listed — this is not an industry norm.

The SU7's styling is another thing that those in the sector have ridiculed because it is almost a spitting image of a Porsche Taycan.

Lei also vowed to get Xiaomi into the premier ranks of smart driving abilities this year, which Tesla, Huawei and Xpeng have become known for.

"You don't easily say you are far, far ahead of others, do you? You should wait until it is a fact. Otherwise, it is your confidence, if not your wish," said Li Shufu, chairman of Geely Holding Group, in a livestreaming event on the same day of Xiaomi's vehicle launch.

It may take a while to see how the model is received, although Lei announced its "major" orders hit more than 50,000 27 minutes after the launch.

In industry practice, major orders are those whose deposit cannot be refunded. But Xiaomi's can be canceled within seven days without losing anything.

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