Chinese manufacturer LeEco, formerly LeTV, has had quite a ride to the top echelons of the Chinese phone market, including their landmark achievement of being the first manufacturer to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor. They went from just another manufacturer to a household name in their homeland fairly quickly and have been working on expanding into the U.S., even going as far as to snatch up a few high-ranking Samsung execs. They also happen to manufacture things like televisions and set top boxes, giving them a bit of a presence outside of the smartphone space where they’re most well known here in the states. A recent announcement and unveiling by Le Holdings leader Jia Yuetling seems to indicate that they’re looking to add fully electric, self-driving luxury cars to that list.
Yuetling took to the stage on Wednesday to unveil LeEco’s concept car, the LeSEE. The fully electric vehicle is meant to compete with the top end of the market, passing over the Chevy Volts and Ford Focuses of the world to go toe to toe with bigwigs like Tesla. The car boasts “smart” and “connected” features. More details about the LeSEE are set to be revealed when it is shown off in its full glory at the Beijing auto show next week. At this point, besides the look and concept direction of the car, details are a bit sparse.
LeEco is planning on offering the car on a pricing model similar to their existing goods at first, but eventually moving to a free model where, in essence, they make their money from content offered using the car as a platform. Naturally, this will require the kind of fully self-driving technology that Google is currently fighting to perfect and have approved for nationwide and worldwide use. Prior to that, however, LeEco is planning on offering a service where these cars are shared among multiple users at an extremely minimal price point, not unlike a very inexpensive taxi. This bold new business model could pay off for LeEco, resulting in a huge shift in the automotive market not only in China, but worldwide as companies scramble to follow LeEco’s example.