Elon Musk vs Jack Ma
Elon Musk, 52, (left), and Jack Ma, 59. Image Credit: LinkedIn | File

They both need no introduction. They're two of the world's richest billionaires — Elon Musk and Jack Ma. They run separate business empires that are worlds apart.

It turns out they're now on a collision course.

Jack Ma's Alibaba (market cap: $176 billion) is a global e-commerce behemoth, which dominates digital marketplaces for merchants and consumers. Its infrastructure is used as the “core engine” of many payments platforms across the world.

Musk is the visionary behind Tesla (market cap: $520 billion), which rules EVs, and Space X, which rules rocketry. He also acquired Twitter in 2022, with a stated aim to make it an "everything app", including as a payments platform.

Alibaba has kickstarted its forays into electric vehicles (EV) – with the launch of the IM L6, a sports sedan. That, quite simply, is Jack Ma vs Elon Musk for you.


The new IM L6 specs,
The new IM L6 specs, at least on paper, are impressive: a 1,000-km range (CLTC and 800-km WLTP), powered by a different type of battery chemistry, a 900-volt system, four-wheel steering, and self-driving software that has already created quite an impression among auto journos. Image Credit: Twitter

The L6 comes with other remarkable innovations: Its use of a “digital chassis” allows the vehicle to perform parallel parking and “crab walk”.

The car measures 4,931/1,960/1,474 mm and weighs 2,250 kg (AWD model). Price: $46,000.The company claims the L6 can clock up 0-100 km/h in just over 2 seconds.

And while the so-called “moose test” (also known as “elk test”) has proved challenging for various popular vehicles, the L6 not only passed this test but also did so autonomously – using only its self-driving software, called vehicle motion controller (VMC).

In February, the IM L6 made its debut at the Geneva auto show as IM Motors’ fourth model. The car is also to be featured at the 2024 Beijing auto show (April 25 to May 4, 2024), and will officially go on sale in its home market in May, according to information previously announced by the company.


The Tesla Model 3 (above) and the IM L6 (below).
The Tesla Model 3 (above) and the IM L6 (below). Image Credit: Tesla | IM

The IM L6 electric vehicle is produced by Zhiji IM Motors, a collaboration between SAIC Motor, Alibaba, and Zhangjiang Hi-Tech.

IM Motors was founded on November 26, 2020 by SAIC, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech and Alibaba.

SAIC Motor, China's largest automaker and the parent of MG, posted $110.6 billion revenue in 2022 (vs $81.5 billion for Tesla that same year). In addition to IM, it also produces and sells vehicles under its own brand – such as Maxus, Rising Auto, and Roewe. It is also the largest shareholder of SAIC-GM-Wuling.

SAIC has ranked among the top 10 automotive companies in the world (it was ranked 84th on the Fortune Global 500 list in 2023).

Although Jack Ma, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $24.3 billion (April 2024), has skipped the limelight and had passed on the baton to Eddie Wu, 49, as CEO of Alibaba Group, Ma is regarded as a visionary behind the Alibaba conglomerate, and is a major player in business-to-business trade.

Jack Ma is also the co-founder of Yunfeng Capital, a Chinese private equity firm, as well as the Ant Group – owner of Alipay, the world’s largest mobile payments platform which serves 1.2 billion users and 80 million merchants.

Musk vs Ma
Jack Ma, 59, is the billionaire founder of Alibaba and Ant Group. Ma has experienced financial success and scrutiny from his many business ventures. He grew up poor and faced multiple job rejections but amassed billions.

Elon Musk, 52, the South African-born entrepreneur widely known as the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, is renowned for his advances in electric vehicles and the private space company SpaceX, known for its reusable rockets.

Musk was an early investor in several tech companies (including Neuralink, Boring Co, Grok) and in October 2022, he completed a deal to take X (formerly Twitter) private.

Rebranding, four-wheel steering

There are reports that the IM L6 will be rebranded as an MG vehicle for release in markets where the MG is strong.

The car’s four-wheel steering system, able to command the car to go in six directions – front, rear, left, right, up, down – is a distinct moat for the model.

Its “digital chassis” tech is said to allow the vehicle to perform tasks like revolutionary parallel parking, on-the-spot 45-degree turns, and “crab walking”.

It is early days for the IM L6. As a company and brand, it still has to prove itself, especially in the fiercely competitive Chinese market, where SU7 was recently launched by EV newcomer Xiaomi

Its overseas venture is a clear attempt to bolster the brand, but it remains to be seen if their cars will simply be rebranded as MG models abroad.

And SAIC already has a plethora of brands, including Roewe, Rising, Maxus, and IM, not to mention Wuling. IM stands out among these, yet there are uncertainties surrounding IM's solid-state battery, and cost is a significant factor.

While it’s not immediately known when IM L6 will hit the US market, IM plans to roll out the IM L6 to the European market, marking a key market pivot for the joint venture.

Still, the fact that two of the world's most iconic techno billionaires have committed significant resources into EVs indicates the upheavals in an industry facing disruption.