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, a U.NNS.pioneer in the field of high-end electric vehicle (EV).
"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 don't just build a car.We consider the car to be a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different from a mobile phone or a 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.Skeptics wonder how startups like LeEco will deliver on their grand vision.
As a sign of intent, 43-year-old Jia last week unveiled the LeSEE electric concept supercar, a rival to Tesla's Model NNS.The "smart, connected and self-driving" car will be on display at this week's Beijing auto show.
"People questioned our idea, a small IT company building a car to compete with the BMWs and Teslas of the world, and laughed at us.It's not easy, but here we are," Jia told Reuters.
Made in Nevada
LeEco hopes to start producing a version of the LeSEE in a few years at a plant being built near Las Vegas by U.NNS.strategic partner Faraday Future, in which Jia has invested.These cars will be sold in the United States and China.Going further, the plan is to also manufacture electric cars in China, possibly through a partnership with BAIC Motor.
The web-connected electric cars will have a "disruptive" pricing model similar to phones and TV sets LeEco markets in China, Jia says.His company, commonly known as China's Netflix, will sell movies, TV shows, music and other content and services to people who drive its cars.That's why he said "one day our car will be free."The closer to the end of the period, the more likely disruptions are" Double the performance for half the price."
Beyond LeEco, Chinese tech heavyweights including Baidu , Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi have funded more than half a dozen EV start-ups, such as NextEV and CH-Auto.Many believe that China's bus, taxi and courier companies will be encouraged to use electricity.
"We define our car in a whole new way ...instead of copying Apple and Tesla,” LeEco co-founder and Vice President Hank Liu told Reuters."Our products are not upgraded from existing products.They are revolutionaries...product that did not exist before."
While the entry barrier has been lowered as electric cars are, mechanically, relatively simpler to produce, sceptics query how China's start-ups will fund and make tens of thousands of industry-changing EVs - from design through to procuring the 10,000 or so parts and systems needed for the finished product.
Daimler said Hubertus Troska, head of its Greater China business, was invited to LeEco last month to get to know the company and its business model.
"I told Mr.Troska we will redefine the car," Liu told Reuters."EV to us is just another screen.We see the car of the future as an extension of the Internet, another entry point for us to sell web-based content and services."
Jia has also had to overcome questions on his funding.For the past three years, there have been rumors that he disappeared and had his passport confiscated because of his relationship with Ling Jihua's brother, a high-ranking Communist Party official who was arrested last year and is currently in prison. investigated for graft.
Jia says he did not go missing, but was in a California hotel researching Tesla and recruiting a team to develop EV technologies.“It was a difficult time for me as we had to deal with a lot of external rumors and internal turmoil,” he said, noting that LeEco was then expanding beyond the business. streaming, mobile and television."(If) any of those projects didn't work out, we could have gone up," he said.
To help fund LeEco's EV push, Jia's sister sold her stake in the company and lent the money to him interest-free.He also sold part of his own shares.
He said Ling Wancheng, the disgraced official's brother, is a "mere financial investor" in LeEco; he never met Ling Jihua; and his passport was never confiscated.
Growing up in a rural Shanxi town in northern China, Jia worked briefly as a computer technician at a tax office before setting out on his own, selling computer accessories, and running restaurants and private schools.Following advice from a relative, he started selling batteries to power cell phone tower antennas - just as China Telecom was pushing hard into the rural hinterland.
In 2003, he drove his used Toyota to Beijing, with 200,000 yuan (around $31,000 at current rates) in cash, seeking to grow his Sinotel Technologies business by adding simple mobile video streaming.He listed the company in Singapore in 2007.With Liu, he registered what is now LeEco - a corporation that now employs 11,000 people in China, India and the United States.Its listed business has 2014 sales of 6.8 billion yuan ($1.05 billion).
Colleagues and friends say Jia is a shrewd businessman, "generous in picking up the tab for meals" and "never stops working.“Forbes values him at $4.8 billion.
To vault from LeEco's IT background to the auto industry, Jia has built ties with California-based Atieva and Faraday Future, and has a partnership with Aston Martin and a cooperative relationship with BAIC.
Ding Lei, LeEco's auto chief and a former top official at General Motors' China venture with SAIC Motor , says part of LeEco's advantage in tomorrow's auto industry is that it carries no baggage from today's.Traditional automakers are too focused on internal combustion engine technology to quickly switch to electric technology, he calculates.
"Look, this disruption can't come from traditional OEMs (automakers).But as a company like us, we can go straight to pure electric cars."
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