Geely-backed luxury EV brand Zeekr says it’s already beating Tesla in parts of China


Pictured here is the Zeekr 001 electric car at a services trade fair in Beijing on Aug. 31, 2023.
China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images

BEIJING — Chinese electric car brand Zeekr is selling more vehicles than Tesla in parts of China, and plans to expand in Europe and Latin America this year, Zeekr CEO Andy An told CNBC on Wednesday.

The sales momentum comes as Elon Musk’s automaker reported its biggest drop in global quarterly revenue since 2012.

“We’ve already outsold Tesla in some areas. Our sales gap with Tesla keeps on narrowing,” An said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.

For the first three weeks of April, Zeekr sold 500 more cars than Tesla in the province of Zhejiang, where Zeekr and its parent company Geely are based. Zeekr also slightly outsold Tesla in the province of Anhui, near Shanghai, and Guangxi, an autonomous region in southern China.

That’s according to data shared by Zeekr. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla’s Model Y still held the bestseller spot in China for the first three months of the year, when looking at purely battery-powered electric cars with a price tag of at least 200,000 yuan ($28,169), according to consumer information site Autohome.

BYD models held the second and third spots, while Tesla’s Model 3 ranked fourth, the data showed. Zeekr’s 001 and 007 sedans ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, according to the data. The company’s 009 multi-purpose electric vehicle is also one of the top five bestsellers in the 500,000 yuan and above price category.

Xiaomi‘s new SU7 electric sedan starts at 215,900 yuan, slightly more than Zeekr’s 007 but less than Tesla’s Model 3.

When asked about Xiaomi’s car launch, An declined to comment on the competitor. But he said the two companies differ in strategy, culture and resources.

At the Beijing auto show kicking off Thursday, Zeekr is revealing a new car structure that gives consumers 10% to 20% more space inside versus a similar vehicle, An said.

“The car of the future is not a simple transportation tool, but a center for smart mobility experience,” he said, noting that in the new space families could play games or enjoy a meal.

He indicated production of such a car would begin by the end of this year.

Expanding outside China

This year, Zeekr expects its overseas sales to boost overall revenue, An said. The company sells in Sweden and the Netherlands, he said, and plans to begin sales to six to eight more countries in Europe this year.

In Latin America, Zeekr is “actively deploying,” An said, without elaborating.

The company is also developing right-hand drive cars, he said, with plans to start sales in Hong Kong and Macao soon this year, and subsequently Singapore.

Many Chinese companies riding the growth of electric cars in the fiercely competitive market at home are looking overseas as major countries encourage a shift away from traditional, fuel-powered vehicles. The rapid rise of Chinese electric car companies, however, has also prompted the EU and U.S. to consider measures for protecting their own auto industries.

When asked about plans to build factories in overseas markets, An said Zeekr is “actively exploring” but could not share details. “Right now it’s a period of exploration, because, seeing all kinds of future uncertainties, we all need to make full preparations in advance,” he said.

Long-term support from Geely

Zeekr was established by China-based Geely in 2021, allowing the brand to draw on the auto group’s resources. Geely owns several brands, including Swedish car brand Volvo, which previously belonged to Ford Motor.

In order for an automaker to succeed in the long term, talent, technology and capital must be intertwined, said An, who is also president of Geely Holding Group and chairman of Geely Auto Group. He said that lone advantages in marketing, design or financing isn’t enough to enable a company to remain competitive.

On the sustainability front, Zeekr said it has a number of initiatives from factory solar power to car recycling, with long-term relationships with re-manufacturers and raw materials companies.

Zeekr has filed for a public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, but hasn’t yet shared a listing date. The latest update to its prospectus is dated April 12, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.

When asked about IPO plans, An declined to share specifics and said the company would go public for strategic purposes when market conditions were favorable.

“It’s not just for financing,” An said. “More importantly, it’s a form of corporate governance for Zeekr’s global development and globalization.”

He pointed out that while Zeekr still operates at a loss, the company has sufficient cash flow and its parent Geely is making money.

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