Jidu Auto, a power vehicle venture between China's tech giant Baidu and Chinese automaker Geely, aims to plough 50 billion Chinese yuan ($7.7bn) into making smart cars over the next five years, its leader told Reuters.
Xia Yiping said on Friday that the funding would result from Baidu and other investors and Jidu would try to launch its first electric vehicle in three years, as is standard for the industry, but would make efforts to speed this up.
Its first EV would appear to be a “robot” and would target young customers, Mr Xia said, adding that Jidu would analyse big market data before deciding on a final model.
"It will cause you to feel just like it's a robot that may talk to you with emotions," said Mr Xia, who co-founded and served as chief technology officer at Chinese bike-sharing firm Mobike until it had been acquired by Meituan in 2018.
Baidu's Hong Kong-listed shares jumped up to 1.3 % after Jidu's investment plan.
The launch of the new auto company in January comes as tech companies all over the world are racing to build up smart cars after Tesla's success in commercialising EVs.
Jidu plans release a a new model every one or one-and-a-half years following its first launch, Mr Xia said, without giving a sales target. It plans to employ 2,500 to 3,000 people over two to three years, including 400 to 500 software engineers.
Shanghai- and Beijing-based Jidu also plans to roll out its branding in the 3rd quarter of this year, Mr Xia said.
He said Jidu, that will use Geely's open-source EV platform, hopes to create cars in Hangzhou Bay in China's eastern city of Ningbo, where Geely has several plants.
It plans to market its car directly to customers to get started with, without needing dealerships.
Chinese internet search engine company Baidu in January announced it could set up the business with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to leverage its intelligent driving expertise and Geely's car manufacturing capabilities.
Baidu currently owns 55 per cent of Jidu and Geely includes a 45 % stake.
Jidu is considering using chips created by Baidu, which has through the years developed smart car technologies including autonomous driving, high-definition maps and cloud. Baidu first established its autonomous driving unit Apollo in 2017.
Smartphone maker Xiaomi and telecom giant Huawei are among other Chinese tech giants harbouring auto ambitions.