Chinese EV start-up Li Auto launches L8 SUV aimed squarely at German rivals BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz
- The Beijing-based carmaker has started taking orders for the six-seater SUV, which is priced from 359,800 yuan (US$50,730) to 399,800 yuan
- The L8 will be displayed at Li Auto’s showrooms across the nation from Saturday, co-founder and CEO Li Xiang said
Chinese smart electric-vehicle (EV) maker Li Auto launched its third model, the L8, to mount a challenge to global marques like BMW and Audi amid an accelerated pace of EV adoption on the mainland.
The Beijing-based carmaker on Friday began taking orders for the six-seater SUV, which is priced from 359,800 yuan (US$50,730) to 399,800 yuan, more than a month ahead of schedule. The first batch of L8s will be delivered to customers in November.
“A variety of new EV models have hit the mainland market as more consumers opt for electricity-powered vehicles while snubbing petrol-guzzlers,” said Gao Shen, an independent analyst in Shanghai. “The high-end EVs will appeal to thousands of young motorists and pose a threat to premium vehicles running on internal combustion engines (ICEs).”
The EV adoption rate in China is likely to top 30 per cent in the coming months, compared with 25 per cent in August, said Paul Gong, a UBS analyst. Total deliveries could surpass 6 million units this year, more than double last year’s total, he added.
The Swiss bank predicted last year that three of every five vehicles sold in 2030 would be battery powered.
Li Auto is targeting wealthy Chinese households who were previously fans of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, said Phate Zhang, founder of Shanghai-based electric-vehicle news site CnEVpost.
The luxury German car brands’ domination over the country’s premium vehicle segment has been gradually waning over the past decade. Their combined market share of about 80 per cent in 2010 has shrunk to 57.8 per cent in the first half of this year, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
BMW’s X5 SUV starts at 605,000 yuan in China, while prices for Audi’s Q5 SUV range from 400,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan.
The company, along with Shanghai-based Nio and Guangzhou-headquartered Xpeng, is regarded as China’s best response yet to US carmaker Tesla, which is the -runaway leader in the -country’s premium EV segment.
Li Xiang, co-founder and CEO of Li Auto, told a virtual launch ceremony that customers would be able to see the vehicles at Li Auto’s showrooms across the nation during the weeklong National Day holiday starting on Saturday.
Li Auto has revved up new model launches this year to tap the surging penetration of battery-powered cars in the world’s largest EV market.
Since its debut at the end of 2019, Li One, a large-size SUV, was the only model offered to mainland drivers by Li Auto until the carmaker unveiled the luxury full-size SUV L9 in June.
The L9, with an extended battery range, is priced at 459,800 yuan and can go as far as 1,315 kilometres on a single charge. Li Auto will start delivering the L9 in October.
The L8, launched on Friday, also has a driving range of 1,315km.
Li Auto has been witnessing declining sales over the past few months as drivers shunned the Li One model before Friday’s launch of the L8, which Li Xiang described as an upgraded version of the Li One.
In August, Li Auto’s sales plunged 56.1 per cent from a month earlier to 4,571 units. It was the second lowest monthly sales this year, slightly better than 4,167 in April when Covid-19 related lockdowns strained the automotive supply chain and disrupted production.
Author: Daniel Ren, SCMP