Li Auto plans to launch its second production model to lure wealthy mainland drivers from Audi and BMW

Asia's Tech News Daily

Li Auto plans to launch its second production model to lure wealthy mainland drivers from Audi and BMW

Global brands that have built up a following with China’s wealthy drivers will face a new battery-powered rival next year, as Li Auto launches a full-size sport-utility vehicle in the luxury segment of the world’s largest automotive market.

The Chinese electric vehicle (EV) start-up plans to launch the vehicle – which it hopes can break up the dominance of Audi’s Q7 and BMW’s X5 – in the second quarter of 2022 before delivering it to customers the next quarter, said Shen Yanan, co-founder and president of Li Auto. The model’s official name has yet to be announced.

Shen said on an earnings call on Monday evening that the carmaker would focus on the quality of its vehicle models to pursue a higher sales volume, rather than ramping up new model development. “We will keep to our own schedule,” said Shen. “We hope to achieve our goal of selling a big volume of vehicles with each model.”

Li Auto’s new luxury car – its second production model – will take on established internal combustion engine (ICE) carmakers in the luxury segment where BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo have the lion’s share of the market.

Shen would not provide further details of the new SUV, but it will be 5.15 metres in length, 1.98 metres wide and 1.8 metres high, according to a report by Shanghai-based electric vehicle news portal CnEVPost.

“Luxury SUVs powered by batteries will turn out to be more attractive to rich customers, most of whom have a penchant for intelligent features, such as a huge screen and voice recognition technology, in cars,” said Tian Maowei, a sales manager at Yiyou Auto Service in Shanghai. “Li Auto’s new model with those functions will be a strong rival to those expensive SUVs.”

Luxury SUVs by the big-name ICE carmakers typically carry a price tag of more than 700,000 yuan (US$110,000).

Li Auto, listed in both New York and Hong Kong, currently has only one production model, the Li One, available on the mainland market. The mid-size SUV with extended battery-range technology, is priced at 338,000 yuan with a driving range of 800 kilometres.

Li One, delivered to customers at the end of 2019, has been seen as a rival to Toyota’s Highlander, one of the bestselling gas-guzzling SUVs in China. In October Li Auto delivered 7,649 vehicles, a jump of 107 per cent on year. Toyota reported it delivered 13,065 Highlander cars the same month, up 45.7 per cent from a year ago.

Li Auto, NIO and Xpeng, with their high-end EVs that come fitted with high-performance batteries, sophisticated in-car entertainment systems and driver-assistant technologies, are seen as the three Chinese Tesla rivals. NIO and Xpeng each have three production models currently. Founded in 2015, Li Auto has been urged by Chinese EV supporters to accelerate development of new models.

Chinese sales of new-energy vehicles – which include pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars – surged by 192 per cent to 2.14 million units in the first 10 months of this year, with the electric vehicle use rate hitting 14.4 per cent. In comparison, last year Chinese carmakers delivered 1.17 million new-energy vehicles, which accounted for 6 per cent of all cars sold.

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