BAIC ups next-gen tech drive

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By ZHONG NAN zhong­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Bei­jing Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­try Corp, one of China’s five lead­ing au­tomak­ers by sales rev­enue, is adopt­ing more dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and form­ing part­ner­ships with com­pa­nies in other sec­tors to up­grade its prod­uct range, amid the wider in­dus­try shift to­ward de­vel­op­ing in­tel­li­gent con­nected ve­hi­cles.

Ea­ger to com­pete with other es­tab­lished ri­vals both from the do­mes­tic and over­seas mar­kets, BAIC Group un­veiled its five-year plan this year. It aims to equip all of its prod­ucts with world-lead­ing self­driv­ing or in­tel­li­gent con­nected tech­nolo­gies by 2020.

“The fu­ture devel­op­ment trend of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try should be the deep in­te­gra­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tive in­no­va­tion be­tween tra­di­tional au­tomak­ers and in­ter­net com­pa­nies,” said Xu Heyi, chair­man of BAIC Group. “All the steps are dig­i­tally syn­chro­nized to en­sure ex­e­cu­tion and com­plete align­ment with cus­tomer de­mand.”

A num­ber of global play­ers from Ger­many, France, Ja­pan and the United States have al­ready dig­i­tal­ized their en­tire value chain, from prod­uct de­sign and re­search and devel­op­ment, through to lo­gis­tics, pro­duc­tion and re­lated ser­vices.

BAIC has adopted a flex­i­ble pro­duc­tion model that com­bines peo­ple, ma­chines and pro­duc­tion pro­cesses. This al­lows the au­tomaker to pro­duce sedans and SUVs on the same pro­duc­tion line in sev­eral of its plants, and in the fu­ture with ei­ther a pure elec­tric or tra­di­tional com­bus­tion en­gine.

With the in­tel­li­gent up­grade be­com­ing an in­evitable trend for the fu­ture of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, Xu said, BAIC Group will trans­form and up­grade its busi­ness from a tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany to a man­u­fac­tur­ing-ser­vice and in­no­va­tive en­ter­prise.

Pro­mot­ing an in­tel­li­gent strat­egy will be one of the com­pany’s main tasks over the long term, he said.

The Bei­jing-head­quar­tered group im­ple­mented an in­tel­li­gent car devel­op­ment strat­egy called NOVAPLS in 2017. The move came after it launched a com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship with Baidu In­tel­li­gent Ve­hi­cle Co, a sub­sidiary of Chi­nese tech gi­ant Baidu Inc, to pro­mote au­to­mo­tive in­tel­li­gent up­grad­ing in the same year.

“The gov­ern­ment has also paid close at­ten­tion to the in­tel­li­gent con­nected ve­hi­cle devel­op­ment process, and has taken it as a vi­tal way to re­lieve the pres­sures of traf­fic con­ges­tion, high en­ergy con­sump­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion,” he added.

Xu said in­tel­li­gent con­nected new en­ergy ve­hi­cles are bound to be the fi­nal so­lu­tion of the ve­hi­cle con­sump­tion up­grad­ing process and fu­ture mo­bil­ity.

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is just the be­gin­ning of the new en­ergy ve­hi­cle in­dus­try, he added, and the in­dus­try will be fur­ther im­pacted by new vi­sions and tech­nolo­gies.

To strengthen the col­lab­o­ra­tion among lead­ing au­tomak­ers and im­prove over­all tech­nolo­gies, BAIC took the lead by es­tab­lish­ing the Bei­jing-based Na­tional New En­ergy Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy In­no­va­tion Cen­ter, a na­tional-level plat­form for new en­ergy ve­hi­cles, in March.

In part­ner­ship with Baidu and Ger­man in­dus­trial con­glom­er­ate Robert Bosch GmbH, BAIC BJEV — BAIC Group’s elec­tric ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer — re­leased its Dar­win tech sys­tem in Bei­jing last month.

The EU5, the com­pany’s first model to adopt this new sys­tem, has all-day bat­tery tech­nol­ogy, which en­ables the bat­tery heat time to shrink from 80 min­utes to six min­utes at un­der 30 C.

The com­pany said the large power charg­ing sys­tem will cut the charg­ing time of the pre­vi­ous sys­tem by 50 per­cent. Mod­els with this sys­tem will be able to run for 450 kilo­me­ters after charg­ing for 15 min­utes on a 350 kilo­watt pole.

BAIC BJEV has in­vested more than 2 bil­lion yuan ($290 mil­lion) in re­search and devel­op­ment in the past three years, ac­count­ing for 7 per­cent of its op­er­at­ing rev­enue. The com­pany’s in­vest­ment in prod­uct devel­op­ment to­taled 873 mil­lion yuan in 2017, rep­re­sent­ing 7.62 per­cent of that year’s op­er­at­ing rev­enue.

Sun Fuquan, a re­searcher at the Chi­nese Academy of Science and Tech­nol­ogy for Devel­op­ment, said both the sup­ply and the de­mand sides are fos­ter­ing the grow­ing ap­pli­ca­tion of in­tel­li­gent con­nec­tiv­ity of China’s au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try.

He said the in­tel­li­gent tech­nol­ogy will re­shape the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try’s value chain, creat­ing huge com­mer­cial value as well as a net­work con­nect­ing au­to­mo­biles. That net­work will be­come the world’s third­largest, after those link­ing com­put­ers and smart­phones.

“We found that many young con­sumers rely heav­ily on the in­ter­net and pay close at­ten­tion to a car’s con­nec­tiv­ity when de­cid­ing which to buy,” said Sun.

With the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment fos­ter­ing the devel­op­ment of in­tel­li­gent con­nected ve­hi­cles, sev­eral cities have in­tro­duced laws and reg­u­la­tions for au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tri­als, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shen­zhen in Guang­dong prov­ince, and Changchun in Jilin prov­ince.

China wel­comes more coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in the devel­op­ment of the coun­try’s in­tel­li­gent con­nected ve­hi­cles sec­tor, in­clud­ing ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to tech­nol­ogy, man­u­fac­tur­ing, ta­lent and safety su­per­vi­sion, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy.

The min­istry pre­dicted that the mar­ket scale of China’s in­tel­li­gent con­nected ve­hi­cles sec­tor will ex­ceed $14 bil­lion by 2020.

The coun­try is striv­ing to cul­ti­vate a glob­ally com­pet­i­tive in­ter­net-con­nected ve­hi­cles in­dus­try, plan­ning to have in­tel­li­gent cars with par­tial or fully au­ton­o­mous func­tions ac­count for 50 per­cent of the new ve­hi­cles sold in China by 2020.

LIU FENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

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