The Tesla Model S in the eyes of the most prominent motoring magazines and websites is largely considered to be one of the best cars ever made. It’s with this that “challenging Tesla” should be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps, it’s just me but I still largely see China as the world’s leader in manufacturing crap despite a number of exceptions.
LeEco rolls-out the LeSEE
While the company did indeed roll-out the LeSEE last night, for more accuracy I should say that the car drove itself out of a shipping container at its unveiling last night with nothing more than a few voice commands into a smartphone held by Jia Yueting, co-founder and head of LeEco. Whether the use of a smartphone by the company’s CEO was a nod to the fact that LeEco used to make smartphones is anybody’s guess but what’s certain is that is was pretty cool.
The all-electric vehicle is quite a ways from production but shows the efforts of one of the many Chinese companies that believe that all-electric and self-driving cars are the future and at least a half dozen companies are working publicly and privately to be the leader in the industry while poaching executives and engineers from major automakers like BMW and others.
The first LeSEE electric car will make its proper debut at the Beijing Auto Show on April 24 but last night showed what LeEco sees for the future. That future, apparently, means a self-driving car with about the same amount of LCD screen it in than what you would expect to see in the security room of a Las Vegas casino.
China’s pollution and population nearly demand that the country rapidly adopts the electric vehicle and the government has provided massive incentives to manufacturers to do it quickly.
In addition to the multiple screens, the LeSEE features suicide doors in the back, crazy lighting options, memory foam seats, and a steering wheel that nearly folds into the dashboard when running in autopilot mode.
There are a number of additional bells and whistles that we will report on when the Beijing Auto Show opens.
Expensive? Maybe now, but Jia wants to give it away
“When everyone is questioning us over our ability to develop a car like this and is laughing at us, we are still able to be here and show you this car … I am so emotional,” Jia said at a LeEco launch event where a number of products in addition to the LeSEE were launched.
In addition to the car, Jia said that his company will soon be launching a car-sharing business. But what’s this about free cars? Jia says that one day the company will look to make money from the content it provides on those many aforementioned LCD monitors as well as other services.
“Our cars’ pricing model will be similar to pricing models for cellphones and TV sets we sell today,” he said. “One day our cars will be free … We are getting there some day.”
Given incentives from the government, a number of tech companies in China are getting in on the EV “goldrush.”
Baidu Inc, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Xiaomi Inc, Tencent Holdings Ltd and other tech firms have poured a good deal of money into over a half-dozen EV startups and upstarts including NextEV and CH-Auto.