The Chinese-based company best known for its sleek smartphones is said to be deep in discussions with at least two car makers about manufacturing electric cars under the Huawei brand.
The news agency cited at least four sources with knowledge of the behind-the-scenes deals that could see Huawei challenge Tesla, Toyota and others in selling cars and in turn become the latest tech behemoth to explore opportunities within mobility.
Reuters suggests the shift into cars is in part to investigate other business opportunities because of the sanctions imposed by the United States that have hurt Huawei phone sales.
The Australian government also banned Huawei from the 5G rollout on security grounds.
The report says Huawei has held discussions with two state-funded car makers – Changan Automobile and a division of BAIC – to potentially use their manufacturing facilities, taking away one of the big hurdles with starting a new car brand.
Sources also suggest Huawei has started designing vehicles and looking for parts suppliers with the view to starting manufacturing as early as this year.
It even nominated Richard Yu – who started his career with Huawei in 1993 – as the man to lead the company’s mooted move into EVs.
A Huawei spokesman responded to Reuters by suggesting the brand’s automotive focus was on supplying technology and components, including the HiCar operating system that incorporates 5G connectivity.
“Huawei is not a car manufacturer,” the spokesman said. “However through ICT (information and communications technology), we aim to be a digital car-oriented and new-added components provider, enabling car OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to build better vehicles.”
Of course Huawei is not the only tech company with visions of making electric vehicles.
Apple has long been rumoured to be working on autonomous electric cars, most recently linked to a deal with Hyundai and Kia.
And Waymo – part of Google – has spent more than a decade developing autonomous technology for cars.
Late in 2020 Baidu – the equivalent of Google in China – confirmed it had entered a strategic partnership with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to develop “intelligent and connected vehicles”.
And Alibaba has a deal with SAIC, which markets the MG and LDV brands.