Exclusive | EV maker Nio taps former Google veteran to save troubled software unit

The Chinese auto maker, which is to further reduce 1,200 people, will welcome Zhang Lei in September.

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Chinese electric-car startup Nio has brought in a former Google and Microsoft veteran to lead its software development unit, as the company strives to revive its sluggish business, 36Kr reported Friday.

Zhang Lei, formerly from Huami’s Silicon Valley office, is set to join Nio in September as its new Vice President, sources from both companies told 36Kr. The appointment was later confirmed by Nio CEO William Li. Huami produces the popular smart wearables, Mi bands, for China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi.

“Nio’s tech team now wants a person like him very badly to manage the business development and improve team’s morale,” Nio employee told 36Kr, referring to Zhang.

The EV maker has faced a series of setbacks recently. The company confirmed to KrASIA last week that it is letting more than 1,200 people go by the end of September, in a move to cut its headcount to about 7,500. The company said it needs to “further control spendings” and “improve operational efficiency” in a timely manner. About 1,000 staffers have been laid off since the beginning of this year.

The Shanghai-based company had a tough time in the past few months with disappointing financial and sales performances. It has recorded losses in three consecutive quarters since its initial public offering last year. Earlier in June, it announced a massive recall plan of nearly 5,000 electric vehicles due to safety concerns related to its battery packs.

Zhang is a veteran of the internet industry – he previously took part in Google’s Android Auto project, and before that, he worked at Microsoft’s search engine Bing for three years, his LinkedIn profile shows.

He will succeed Zhuang Li, who resigned for “personal reasons” in June, according to a 36Kr’s previous report.

36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company.