China’s Geely to take on Tesla with its own premium EVs

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Chinese multinational automotive company Geely is all set to introduce electric vehicles under a new identity with distinct branding and sales strategy, as the Volvo owner looks to compete with market leader Tesla with higher-end vehicles.

The premium brand “Zeekr” will reportedly be housed under Geely’s soon-to-be-launched EV entity Lingling Technologies.

As per the reports Geely, which owns Volvo Cars and 9.7 percent of Daimler AG, will roll out models under the new identity based on its open-source EV chassis, known as Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA), which was revealed last September.

It will be Geely’s latest effort to move upmarket, and it will support Founder and Chairman Li Shufu’s long-held desire to produce premium cars “like Mercedes-Benz” to compete with EV leader Tesla Inc.

Geely would open showrooms, or “hubs,” in city centers to sell cars at a fixed price, breaking with the tradition of selling cars through dealerships, a marketing strategy pioneered by Tesla, whose sales in China, the world’s biggest car market, grew rapidly last year.

Geely made a flurry of deals earlier this year to achieve its target of being a leading EV contract manufacturer and engineering service provider.

Mr. Alan Kang analyst at auto consultancy LMC Automotive remarked that “Traditional gasoline cars and electric vehicles are two race tracks of business. Geely does not have a clear advantage in electric vehicles at the moment so it appears that it wants to complete its innovation by creating a new brand.”

China’s automakers compete mainly with entry-level and mass-market manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Toyota, but EV maker Nio Inc sells higher-priced vehicles and counts BMW as a competitor.

Hangzhou-based Geely also has a variety of sales and marketing strategies in the works to build a stronger relationship with EV customers. According to reports, it would introduce lifestyle apparel and accessory lines as well as a car owner’s club, similar to Nio’s strategies.

Zeekr is also considering introducing a share ownership scheme that would allow customers to become Lingling shareholders, which management hopes would improve sales and enhance the brand-customer relationship. Geely is yet to comment about such as prospect.

Many conventional automakers have launched their electric vehicles under a new name. Great Wall and SAIC Motor, two of Geely’s competitors, have launched their independent EV brands.

In response to chronic air pollution and a warming environment, China’s government has heavily promoted new energy vehicles (NEVs), such as battery-powered, plug-in petrol-electric hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell cars, spurring interest from technology firms and investors alike.

China expects Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) to account for 20 percent of annual car sales by 2025, up from around 5 percent in 2020.

Related: BMW unveils the first exterior images of i4, its first electric sedan