China’s Li Auto delivers electric minivan with fridge and sofa to lure wealthy families from General Motors’ petrol MPV

China’s Li Auto delivers electric minivan with fridge and sofa to lure wealthy families from General Motors’ petrol MPV

China’s Li Auto delivers electric minivan with fridge and sofa to lure wealthy families from General Motors’ petrol MPV

Li Auto has priced its multipurpose vehicle (MPV) at 559,800 yuan (US$77,764), nearly double the price of market leader General Motors’ petrol-powered competitor, the GL8, as the nearest rival to Tesla in mainland China vies for a bigger share of the country’s premium electric vehicle (EV) market.
Beijing-based Li Auto said on Friday that the fully-electric minivan, known as the Li Mega, will better cater to the travel demands of rich families because it is fitted with a refrigerator and a sofa, making it a “mobile home”.

“We believe Mega will be our next hit product,” Li Xiang, co-founder and CEO of Li Auto, said at a ceremony on Friday in Shanghai as the company started deliveries of the new van. “It will prove that a pure-electric MPV can be a good choice for families.”

The seven-seat MPV comes in only one edition, which can go as far as 710 kilometres on a single charge.

Robots perform welding on cars at a facility of Li Auto in Changzhou, in east China’s Jiangsu Province, on January 10, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

MPVs are generally viewed as commercial vehicles in China. The models that are configured for passenger use normally target wealthy households with more than one child.

Chinese buyers purchased 1.09 million MPVs, most of which were petrol-powered, in 2023, up 15.9 per cent on year, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA).

General Motors’ GL8, with total mainland sales of 110,000 units, is priced between 232,900 yuan and 417,900 yuan.

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The Li Mega is powered by Qilin fast-charging batteries made by Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL), the world’s largest EV battery producer. The batteries offer a 500-kilometre driving range on a 12-minute electric charge.

Able to reach 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, the Mega is Li Auto’s first pure-electric model. The company has developed four production models since its establishment in 2015, all of which are hybrid sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) with extended range.

The Mega is also the first model to be assembled at Li Auto’s new Beijing plant, which has an annual capacity of 100,000 units. Up until now the company has made its SUVs at a plant in Changzhou, in east China’s Jiangsu province.

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“MPV is a niche market, but Mega can help Li Auto build an image as a luxury car brand among the country’s high-net-worth people,” said Eric Han, a ­senior manager at Suolei, an advisory firm in Shanghai. “Li Auto has potential to challenge Tesla’s sales [in China] with its new models.”

Li Auto delivered 376,030 vehicles in 2023, up 182 per cent year on year.

The company broke its monthly sales record for nine consecutive months between April and December, and trailed only Tesla in China’s premium EV segment. The US carmaker handed more than 600,000 Shanghai-made Model 3s and Model Ys to mainland buyers last year, an increase of 37 per cent from 2022.

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EV sales in mainland China grew by 37 per cent year on year in 2023, but Fitch Ratings has forecast that sales will expand by only 20 per cent this year.

Most carmakers are set to offer discounts and engage in a price war to retain their market shares in 2024, Cui Dongshu, general ­secretary of the CPCA said last month.

CMB International said in a research report in January that Li Auto would reduce its average selling prices by 3 per cent this year, with its gross margin hitting 20.7 per cent, down 1.5 percentage points from 2023.

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