China’s Xiaomi About to Do What Apple Couldn’t: Launch an Electric Car

Estimated read time 3 min read

Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi is set to do what Apple could not after it announced plans to start selling its first line of EVs, the Speed Ultra 7 (SU7), on March 28 in dozens of cities across China.

For Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s billionaire founder and CEO, the launch marks an extraordinary feat. His EVs go on sale just three years after his company said it was venturing beyond consumer electronics into EVs.

Jun Lei

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun.

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

In December, Lei shared his experience driving 100 cars to “learn from the strengths of each one” and gain the “firsthand experience” he felt necessary to build a competitive car. The effort seems to have paid off: the SU7 can go from 0 to 100kph in 2.78 seconds, per Xiaomi.

“As we approach the 3rd anniversary of our EV-manufacturing journey, ‘Fight for Xiaomi EV’ continues to fuel me and the team. We remain determined to make a great car!” the Xiaomi CEO said on X.

Like Apple, Xiaomi is best known for selling smartphones. In China, Xiaomi has a 13.8% share of the smartphone market, putting it just behind Apple’s 15.7% this year, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

So it’s worth asking how Xiaomi has managed to do what Apple spent the best part of a decade trying to do.

Apple’s decision to crash its EV project came after running into several production issues that pushed the company to consider a less ambitious design for its autonomy features, having already risked delaying a launch date until at least 2028.

According to Bloomberg, Apple got a minivan prototype nicknamed the “Bread Loaf” up and running at a testing track in Arizona. But with a lot more work needed, its roughly $1 billion a year spent on the car was starting to look tough to justify.

Xiaomi, meanwhile, has managed to use the existing EV industry base in China to its favor.

The Chinese firm, for instance, has benefited from a partnership with Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC Group) that gave it faster access to a manufacturing permit, per Bloomberg. The partnership will help Xiaomi build about 200,000 EVs a year.

Xiaomi SU7

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun unveils the SU7, the company’s first electric car.


Of course, Xiaomi isn’t guaranteed EV success just because it’s ready to sell cars now.

The market for EVs is going through a tough time, with rival carmakers like Tesla and BYD engaged in a price war to entice consumers.

Xiaomi, which has yet to announce a price for its SU7, is looking to target the “premium” market. That could prove a challenge in China, where EV makers are battling slowing demand.

Still, Xiaomi has managed to pull off something Apple dreamt of for 10 years. Tim Cook will have to look on from Cupertino on what could have been.