Tencent wants to become a supplier of electric vehicles for foreign automakers in China

The BMW iX electric SUV in China has become the first global automotive brand to include an in-car version of Tencent’s WeChat messaging app, according to a Chinese technology company.


BEIJING. Chinese internet giant Tencent wants to sell technology that the company says will help foreign automakers sell cars in China’s massive electric vehicle market.

BMW and some US automakers are already partnering with Tencent, Liu Shuquan, vice president of Tencent Intelligent Mobility, which is part of Tencent’s cloud business. Speaking to CNBC on Friday, he declined to specify which US automakers he works with.

Seeking to strengthen its international strategy, on Friday, Liu’s team launched a new cloud computing product for automakers called “Tencent Intelligent Automobile Cloud”.

The universal cloud product, also available to domestic automakers, can cover all technological aspects of an electric vehicle, the company said. These features range from storing data in a way optimized for learning autonomous driving systems to giving drivers access to Tencent’s social media and mapping apps.

The user interface could be a boon for Chinese drivers, given that Tencent dominates the top online entertainment apps in China.

The company has played the role of Facebook in China with its ubiquitous messaging, payment and social media app WeChat – something that rivals technology. Baidu as well as Alibaba is yet to come.

In terms of entertainment, Tencent has other apps as well: QQ Music, one of two major Spotify-like apps in China; Tencent Video, which offers on-demand streaming content including reality shows and animated series; as well as popular mobile games such as Honor of Kings.

Tencent Maps is the third most popular navigation app on the Apple app store in China, with the top two places being held by its main competitors. Alibaba as well as Baidu.

All vehicles that allow passengers or drivers to access Tencent apps from vehicle platforms must have an agreement with Tencent, Liu said.

These app-level partnerships began in 2018, around the same time that Tencent Cloud began working with automakers on autonomous driving services, the company said.

Adding new autonomous driving technologies

Players in China’s Automotive Industry increasingly betting that local drivers will want more autonomous driving features, which are essentially assisted driving functions due to the regulation of modern technology.

Already in the first quarter, 23% of new vehicles sold in China came with a limited level of assisted driving. called “Level 2” in the autonomous driving classification system, according to Tencent.

With the new cloud computing product announced last week, Liu said that overseas auto companies can develop vehicles with navigation and driving assistance features adapted to China’s roads and terrain.

“The data belongs [the] OEM, consumer,” Liu said, referring to original equipment manufacturers who provide components and parts for another company’s product.

“We just provide a cloud service to store this data. Secondly, we provide an entire ecosystem. This ecosystem includes not only[s] our own services and content, as well as our partners.”

Liu said his company has already partnered with nearly 40 auto brands, including BMW, SAIC and Nio, covering 120 vehicle models. He also noted partnership negotiations with German and Japanese companies.

BMW did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Representatives from SAIC and Nio spoke Friday at the presentation of the Tencent Intelligent Automobile Cloud product.

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