Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings is launching a new brand of premium electric vehicles as it aims to capture a share of the luxury EV market that has been dominated by Tesla and other homegrown companies.
The new brand of vehicles, called Zeekr, will be manufactured by parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. The first Zeekr vehicles are expected to be delivered in the third quarter of 2021.
The launch of Zeekr, which was first reported by Reuters and confirmed today by Geely, has been couched as a bid to take on Tesla in China. Tesla has had success in the country, reporting in a recent regulatory filing that sales in China more than doubled last year, from $2.9 billion in 2019 to $6.6 billion in 2020. But Tesla is hardly the only competition in China, the world’s largest market for electric vehicles.
Zeekr will have to jostle with domestic start-ups Li Auto and NIO that also offer luxury car models. While Geely remained the highest-selling Chinese auto brand by units sold in 2020 – its fourth consecutive year in the top spot – net profits dropped 32% last year, according to financial results posted Tuesday.
The Zeekr marque will be manufactured by Geely Holding using its Sustainable Experience Architecture, an open-source EV technology that the company said offers driving ranges of up to 435 miles (700 km) as well as smart connectivity options. Geely has plans to deploy the architecture across its nine automotive brands (the company is a minority shareholder of Daimler AG and owner of Volvo Cars) – and sell to other manufacturers.
Eric Li, founder of Geely Holding, said in a statement that the company intends to make the architecture accessible to other car makers.
The SEA platform is just one piece of Geely’s plans to position itself as a leading source of electric vehicle manufacturing and technology. Last month, Geely and Volvo Cars announced they had axed plans to merge but will instead set up a standalone company that will develop next-gen hardware and software for electric vehicles across its brands and with other manufacturers. The two companies will also jointly source batteries and electric motors under the new collaboration.
Geely Holding is also setting the stage to take on a larger role in manufacturing for other car companies, with plans for a joint venture with Chinese company Foxconn Technology Group – Apple’s main supplier – aimed at contract manufacturing for automakers. Geely said it would partner with Chinese tech giant Baidu in a separate venture to build EVs, also with its SEA platform. Baidu has been developing intelligent driving technologies, including autonomous driving, which it said it would contribute to the new company.
Zeekr will be jointly owned by the subsidiary and its parent with a 51% and 49% share structure, with a joint investment of 2 billion yuan ($307 million).