Zhejiang Geely Holding, one of China’s biggest carmakers and the owner of Sweden’s Volvo Cars, has entered the fray against Tesla by launching an electric car it describes as a vehicle to excite rather than commute in.
The Zeekr 001 car, a four-door sedan with a driving range of 700km (435 miles), is priced at 281,000 yuan (US$43,098), a little higher than the Shanghai-made Tesla Model 3’s starting price of 249,900 yuan.
It will offer air suspension that automatically adjusts ground clearance, and frameless automatic doors that open when a passenger approaches, and close behind them.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“The Zeekr brand is here to succeed in the premium EV [electric vehicle] segment,” said Geely president An Conghui, who is also chief executive of Zeekr Technology, at a launch ceremony on Thursday.
He said it took the carmaker five years to create the new Zeekr brand. It will compete in a fast-changing car market where electrification and digitalisation are the keys to the future of mobility.
“We have the best resources of a car company behind us, including an established supply chain and a wide industrial footprint that is ready to begin producing vehicles.”
Designed in Sweden at Geely Design Gothenburg, the Zeekr 001 will use facial recognition to adjust the car’s settings to the personal preferences of who ever is approaching. Over-the-air updates will be conducted at least once a quarter for the lifetime of the car.
“The Zeekr car is big and spacious, and that will help it attract Chinese drivers,” said Yale Zhang, managing director of Automotive Foresight, an industry researcher in Shanghai. “Conventional carmakers are now upping the ante in EVs and mounting a challenge to Tesla and other leading EV start-ups.”
Earlier this year, Geely formed a raft of partnerships with companies including technology behemoth Baidu, and Foxconn, the world’s largest contract maker of consumer electronics, to build smart electric cars as part of its ambitions to become a global leader in the automotive industry.
Zeekr plans to build 2,200 charging stations by the end of 2023.
Tesla is still the runaway leaders in mainland China’s premium EV segment.
In March, the American giant delivered 35,478 vehicles made at its Shanghai Gigafactory 3 – 25,327 Model 3s and 10,151 Model Ys. Its sales jumped 93.7 per cent from the previous month.
Chinese electric car start-ups – NIO, Xpeng and Li Auto – are building smart EVs with longer ranges than Tesla’s Model 3s and Model Ys. But they are still lagging far behind Elon Musk’s carmaker in terms of sales.
China delivered 1.17 million new-energy vehicles - which comprise pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars – last year, and UBS predicted that could jump by nearly six-fold to 6.6 million units in 2025.
The battery-powered Zeekr-branded cars is based on the open-source Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) platform launched late last year.
It uses a battery system with a lifespan of 2 million kilometres made by Contemporary Amperex Technology.
More from South China Morning Post:
- China electric cars: Baidu and Geely hire Mobike’s co-founder as chief executive of EV venture
- China’s carmakers are beating internet start-ups in the battle for supremacy in the world’s largest electric vehicle market
- China’s EV war: Tesla faces a rival with a record 621-mile range as NIO’s ET7 electric car raises the ante in world’s largest market
- China’s EV war: titans driving revolution in sector spell out challenges and strategies
- Tesla plans to produce electric car chargers in China near Shanghai factory, document shows