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What Xiaomi’s billionaire CEO Lei Jun is reading to build EVs

What Xiaomi’s billionaire CEO Lei Jun is reading to build EVs
Xiaomi co-founder Lei Jun is personally spearheading a US$10 billion project to make Xiaomi-branded electric vehicles by 2024. (PHOTO: Bloomberg)

By Selina Xu

(Bloomberg) — Xiaomi Corp. co-founder Lei Jun may be busy launching new smartphones, but it seems he’s still laser focused on his carmaking ambitions.

The billionaire businessman has been asking friends in the auto industry for books to read to better understand the sector, according to a post he shared on Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social media service. Lei is personally spearheading a US$10 billion project to make Xiaomi-branded electric vehicles by 2024.

Lei compiled a reading list for China’s week-long National Day holiday, chock full of biographies. His 12 recommendations include former Volkswagen AG CEO Ferdinand Piech’s Auto.Biographie and more esoteric titles on manufacturing like Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production by engineer Taiichi Ohno.

“Here’s a breezy read to understand the intertwined stories behind major brands like Porsche, Bugatti and Bentley,” Lei wrote about Piech’s 2002 memoir. “Piech does a great job of laying out the history of the global car industry.”

Also making Lei’s list is 1000 Days in Shanghai: The Volkswagen Story by Martin Posth, who built the first Chinese-German automobile factory in the 1980s, and Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung’s Born of This Land: My Life Story.

A quick skim of the other names Lei admires is revealing. Enzo Ferrari, Billy Durant, Soichiro Honda — a who’s who of the past century in the automobile industry or, as Lei put it, “the heroes.”

The 52-year-old, who is also Xiaomi’s chief executive officer, has said that EVs will be his final startup endeavor.

The technology giant is eyeing a production tie-up with Beijing Automotive Group Co. to acquire a license to make cars after trouble getting approval from Chinese regulators. But it now needs to play catch up to rivals including other Big Tech players like Huawei Technologies Co. and Baidu Inc. as well as local automakers like BYD Co. and Nio Inc.

Lei remains undeterred. He said recently the EV business will be a key driver of Xiaomi’s continued growth, especially as profits wane amid a global smartphone slump. Or, in Twitter-speak: “The race is just getting started.”

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.