NextEV Names Former Cisco Executive Warrior to Lead Tesla Chase

Padmasree Warrior Takes On Elon Musk
  • Chinese startup raising $1 billion for 2016 electric supercar
  • Tencent-backed NextEV to tap China carmakers for manufacturing

NextEV Inc. named Padmasree Warrior, Cisco Systems Inc.’s former technology chief, to lead U.S. operations as the Chinese electric-car startup takes on Tesla Motors Inc.

Warrior, 55, will be U.S. chief executive officer and head of development for software and the user experience, NextEV said in a statement Wednesday. One of Silicon Valley’s leading advocates for women in tech, she left Cisco in September and joined Microsoft Corp.’s board of directors this month.

“I really care about solving big global problems,” Warrior said in an interview. “It’s not just electric cars. It’s how can you use the mobile Internet era to bring the user much closer to the brand -- we call it user enterprise. The vision is not just about technology, but changing the experience.”

NextEV was founded last year by William Li, chairman of Chinese car-pricing portal Bitauto Holdings Ltd., and a group of Internet entrepreneurs. Martin Leach, the former CEO of Maserati and president of Ford Europe, is president. NextEV is backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital and Joy Capital, and is seeking to raise $1 billion.

The hiring adds a veteran Silicon Valley executive with technical and leadership experience to the management ranks of Shanghai-based NextEV. An early user of Twitter with 1.63 million followers, Warrior was considered for the CEO post at Twitter Inc., people familiar with the search said.

Chinese Startups

NextEV is among at least a half-dozen well-funded electric-vehicle startups based in or backed by firms in China. Many of the companies are setting up shop in California to gain access to engineering talent, then planning to sell cars in China first before tackling other markets. NextEV has an 85,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters and R&D hub in San Jose.

NextEV plans to roll out a fully electric supercar in late 2016 that can match Tesla’s “Ludicrous” speed mode of zero to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour in 2.8 seconds, Li said in a September interview. The company also plans to offer mass-market models, he said.

China, the world’s largest auto market, is turning to electric vehicles as a solution for smog-choked cities, with municipal governments exempting plug-in autos from license-plate lotteries.

NextEV plans to partner with existing automakers for manufacturing while creating its own battery packs with standard cells from suppliers.

Manufacturing Talks

“There is substantial open capacity for manufacturing in China,” Leach said in an interview. “We’re in discussion with three OEMs. We don’t rule out one day running our own factories, but it’s not a priority for us.”

Faraday Future, a startup backed by billionaire Jia Yueting, plans to produce its first car in 2017 at a $1 billion factory that the company plans to build near Las Vegas. Karma Automotive has risen from the bankruptcy of Fisker Automotive Inc. and has financial backing from billionaire Lu Guanqiu. Atieva, Car Inc. and SAIC Motor also plan to compete in electric vehicles.

Warrior, a native of India, spent 23 years at Motorola before joining Cisco in late 2007. She left the networking-equipment maker as new CEO Chuck Robbins reshaped management. In addition to serving on Microsoft’s board, she’s a director at software developer Box Inc. and retailer Gap Inc.

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