Didi, Haima Automobile in talks about possible EV partnership

Didi Global Inc. is in talks with Haima Automobile about a partnership to manufacture electric vehicles, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Chinese ride-hailing giant is also discussing potential partnerships with other carmakers including Sinomach Automobile Co., said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Deliberations are ongoing and no final decision on the arrangement has been made, the people said.

Didi, facing a regulatory crackdown in China over its privacy and cybersecurity practices, is one of several of the nation’s big tech companies seeking to break into the growing market for electric cars. The rapidly expanding arena — a key aspect of the Xi Jinping administration’s environmental road map — represents a potent new source of revenue given its main market is saturated and officials are pressuring the sharing economy giants to share more of the wealth with their workers.

Didi launched an EV for ride sharing in late 2020 in partnership with Chinese automaker BYD Co. and has been hiring automobile R&D staff in Beijing and Shenzhen, according to local media reports. A partner like Haima or Sinomach could defray the costs of entry considerably, allowing Didi to focus on developing technologies such as self-driving and in-car software.

A representative for Didi wasn’t immediately able to comment. Haima Automobile said while it had no such cooperation at present, it’s open to external collaboration. A representative for Sinomach Auto didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Haikou, Hainan-based Haima Automobile makes minivans, new energy vehicles and other types of passenger vehicles. It used to have a manufacturing partnership with Chinese EV startup Xpeng Inc., producing Xpeng’s first car the Xpeng G3, but that ended in December.

Didi’s planned Hong Kong stock exchange listing was suspended after the company failed to appease Chinese regulators’ demands that it overhaul its systems for the handling of sensitive user data, Bloomberg News reported last month.

Katherine T. Burrows

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