Huawei has appointed the head of its smartphone business to take charge of its young vehicle technology unit, part of a wider management reshuffle as the telecommunications giant tries to break into the fast-growing autonomous and electric vehicle sector.

Why it matters: The appointment is expected to initiate a round of restructuring which will place Huawei’s nascent intelligent automotive solution (IAS) business unit and the team that develops and sell in-car services for automakers under its core consumer business group.  

  • The IAS unit was set up in May 2019 to develop self-driving system as well as key components for autos and was previously under the Information and Communications Technology Infrastructure managing board.
  • Huawei’s consumer business group, is seeking adoption for an Android alternative called HarmonyOS targeting various connected devices including autos other than smartphones.

Details: Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group, was appointed concurrently CEO of the auto solutions unit. Current head Wang Jun will remain as the president of the unit, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told TechNode on Wednesday. Chinese media first reported the shift, citing an internal memo dated Tuesday.

  • Yu was also relieved from his role as CEO of Huawei’s cloud and artificial intelligence business unit, an appointment made three months ago and reported by the South China Morning Post. Zhang Ping’an, current president of Huawei’s cloud unit will be promoted as the CEO of the unit and led by Eric Xu, Huawei’s rotating chairman.
  • A month after putting EVs on sale in dozens of its flagship stores, Huawei is ramping up a push into electric and connected vehicles. Yu recently set an ambitious annual target of selling 300,000 EVs next year, Chinese media reported Wednesday citing sources.
  • The company has secured around 6,500 orders for the Seres SF5, a plug-in hybrid launched by its partner Sokon last month, according to the report. It has planned to sell EVs in at least 200 shops by the end of July and increase that number to more than 1,000 by year-end.

Context: Huawei has been seeking new growth drivers as its smartphone sales plunged globally last year. The smartphone business is running out of key components from US suppliers while being cut off from Google’s Android by the US sanctions.

  • The telecoms company last month co-launched Alpha S, a premium electric sedan targeting Tesla’s Model 3, with state-owned automaker BAIC and pledged to start delivering self-driving capabilities for highways and urban streets at the end of this year.
  • Ford manufacturing partner Changan is also reportedly (in Chinese) on track to unveil a new premium EV brand, co-developed with Huawei and Chinese top battery supplier CATL, later this month. Huawei last month announced to spend $1 billion in research and development for autos this year.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen