Xiaomi has hired Yu Liguo, a former senior executive at state-owned automaker BAIC Motor, to lead its autonomous electric vehicle (EV) project. The move brings a highly-experienced executive from the traditional auto industry to the 12-year-old smartphone maker.

Why it matters: The hire is the latest sign that Xiaomi is serious about venturing into the EV industry.

Details: Yu has come aboard as vice president of Xiaomi’s auto unit and a “political commissar” at its Beijing headquarters, according to an internal letter published Friday and obtained by Chinese media outlet 36Kr.

  • Yu will be tasked with leading Xiaomi’s car-making project and managing the development and implementation of key business goals, and will report directly to CEO Lei Jun, a person with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed with TechNode on Monday.
  • Yu will also play a major role in talent management of the auto unit and report his daily work as a “commissar” to Liu De, a senior vice president and head of Xiaomi’s organization department, the person said.
  • Yu began his career at BAIC in 2012 and worked as the president of Arcfox, an EV unit of BAIC, from 2020-2021. His leadership of the EV program at Daimler’s Chinese manufacturing partner resulted in the launch of the Alpha S vehicle, its flagship electric sedan co-developed with Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei in early 2021.

Context: The news comes just months after Li Tianyuan, a former exterior designer of BMW’s electric vehicle the iX, joined Xiaomi, an appointment that was made public via a group photo of the firm’s corporate executives posted by CEO Lei Jun last September.

Read more: Drive I/O | Chips, batteries, AV: Xiaomi’s most high-profile auto investments of the year

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