This Might Be The First Chinese Car You Drive

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It’s the middle of the week and we’ve got Chinese cars going west, Tesla stores in China moving out, a big move by Canoo, and a good report from Bentley.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Zeekr CEO Says Cars Are Coming To Europe Next Year

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The headline above has some huge caveats, but the caveats themselves are super revealing:

  • If you live or have traveled to China then you have probably driven a Chinese car.
  • Both the Volvo S60 Inscription and Buick Envision were built in China and sold in the United States.
  • Volvo and Polestar are owned by Chinese companies, but they aren’t marketed as explicitly Chinese brands.
  • You could be Jason and own a Changli.
  • You could travel to Europe and rent a Chinese car, likely a Lynk & Co. [Editor’s Note: I drove an Aiways U5 in Germany. -DT]

Otherwise, there are better than reasonable odds that you do not and have not owned or driven a Chinese car. Which Chinese car will be the first to mass market is an open question but Geely-owned Zeekr thinks it might be them.

Here are the two paragraphs on the company that stood out to me — from this Reuters report:

An Conghui, CEO of Zeekr and Geely president, told reporters at a roundtable on Tuesday in Wuzhen in Zhejiang province that Geely had created Zeekr with the aim of meeting standards in Europe and the United States from the outset.

An said Geely would market its 001 electric crossover in Europe next year. He did not give a sales target or discuss whether Zeekr would consider overseas production.

Note the “and the United States” there. It seems pretty obvious that Zeekr has its eyes on this market and all I can say is that I hope they bring the Zeekr 009 here as well.

Tesla Closes Its First Chinese Showroom

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Tesla is still a popular brand in China that sells a lot of cars, but it’s also under direct competition from many other brands that are homegrown and cheaper. It’s therefore no surprise that Tesla is having to adjust to this new reality.

When the company launched in China it had flashy stores in big malls, but try dealing with service requests next to a Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill.

Thus, Tesla is going to close the first showroom it had in a Beijing Shopping Mall.

Per an Automotive News story on the move:

More than half of Tesla’s China stores do not offer repair or maintenance services and are in high-rent locations where space is limited. That included the now-closed Parkview Green store.

Tesla owns all of its own stores rather than relying on dealers. It also sells its cars online. That has allowed it more leeway to adjust a retail strategy that had been initially modeled on Apple’s glossy stores in high-rent locations.

Apple stores are great, but it’s much easier to service an iPhone than it is an entire car.

Canoo Is Going To Ooooooooooooklahoma

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Sooner football is having a rough year, but there’s some good news for our Oklahoman friends, electric startup Canoo is coming to town. Specifically, Canoo will create a battery assembly plant in Pryor, Oklahoma as part of their big plans for their small EV van.

From a company press release:

The Battery Facility will be in proximity to Canoo’s MegaMicro Factory, a 400-acre campus at MidAmerica Industrial Park, a 9,000-acre industrial complex strategically located near some of the nation’s most highly traveled thoroughfares. When built, the MegaMicro Factory will include a full commercialization facility with a paint, body shop and general assembly plant. It will be a significant investment in the state and will employ more than 2,000 when fully operational.

MegaMicro Factory is a ridiculous name, but I like it.

Bentley Is UP UP UP In Q3

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Bentleys are nice cars and if I were super wealthy I’d be inclined towards their more restrained approach to luxury, though if I had $300k to spend on a car I’d just buy 10 cars.

Actual super wealthy people do not think like me, and profits for Volkswagen-owned Bentley were at an all-time record in the third quarter of 2022. Specifically, the company had a 23% profit margin. By comparison, Ford hovers around 6%.

This is how luxury cars work. While there are some pieces of the car that are expensive to make, a lot of the parts that make it work are shared with parts of other cars (you don’t get a bespoke, Swarovski-studded windshield wiper fluid reservoir). The premium you pay is, to some extent, for having a Bentley.

In addition, the customization options on a Bentley are way higher than on a Volkswagen Golf and that adds up fast, which Bentley basically comes out and says in their press release:

Year-to-date sales were up 3 per cent to 11,316 luxury cars, while revenue increased from €1.949 billion in 2021, to €2.490 billion this year, a 28 per cent growth rate.

This was largely due to the popularity of new model derivatives and the personalisation options available through Bentley Mulliner, the oldest coachbuilder in the world.

They’re not alone, of course. The most premium luxury car in the world, in my opinion, is a Ford F-250 Platinum Tremor.

The Flush

Would you buy a Zeekr?

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55 Responses

  1. I find it interesting that people are hesitant to buy Chinese cars but are completely fine with buying a Lucid Air. Lucid is quite literally owned and operated by the Saudi government, which has a well-documented and ongoing history of human rights abuses, but Zeekr (owned by Geely, a privately owned Chinese company) gets more skepticism. I would be hesitant to buy a Chinese car, but I would take a Geely over a Lucid any day since Geely isn’t funding the CCP.

  2. I’m fine buying foreign cars, but I’m not buying one from China.

    Their human rights abuses and single party political theatre are enough to deter me. In addition, the government seems to be deeply adversarial under the surface, and willing to commit any degree of espionage necessary to get what they want.

    The deep connections between the Chinese government, military and business entities make me especially uncomfortable. I’m very glad that microchip design and manufacturing are being returned to domestic factories.

    China spent a lot of time making a show of changing for the better, putting up the appearance of a fully docile and friendly trading partner, but I believe that was mostly a ruse to get deeper access to western methods and markets.

    Yes, everything they’re doing is very interesting, and they are certain to be a global player for pretty much the rest of time.

    But no, purchasing a Chinese made automobile is a line I don’t expect to cross any time soon. I still consider them a zoo tiger, appearing domesticated but ultimately unpredictable at heart, with sharp claws and dangerous teeth.

  3. Would you buy a Zeekr?

    I wouldn’t buy a Zeekr without due diligence. For me that includes driving a five year old one to see how they age, seeing reliability and cost of operation / maintenance statistics, and depreciation relative to the competition. I’m just not who the thrilling marketing moving that new new is aimed at.

  4. We had Great Wall pickups in our company vehicle fleet over a decade ago. They were essentially licenced Isuzu Rodeo. They were cheap and they had some drawbacks. I wasn’t a fan and we didn’t keep them long as the distributor at the time didn’t provide proper parts support.

    These days, vehicles from GWM, Haval and MG are a common sight on Australian roads. Each of the brands does their own factory distribution and the quality is typically very good.

    The only caveat is that, in order to match the perceptions of the market (Chinese cars should be cheaper), few of the models offered have been properly localised in terms of vehicle dynamics, active safety systems and in-car controls. So the handling and operating systems are often not up to scratch which can take the shine off your $15,000 saving over an equivalent Japanese or Korean large SUV.

  5. A few years ago I owned a very used 2007 ZAP! Xebra Zapcar, a fully-enclosed delta-configuration street-legal EV. ZAP! was headquartered in California but the vehicle itself was manufactured in the Shandong Pioneer Motorcycle plant by a company variously operating as Jinan Dalong Vehicle Industry Co., Ltd. and Qingqi Group Motorcycle Co., Ltd., although the details aren’t entirely clear.

    It was… not great, even by my own aggressively low standards of design, construction, personal safety, and, just to throw this in there, aesthetics. It also managed to shatter part of its steering linkage in a way that was unreachable for repair except, as far as I could determine, by sawing large access holes into its fiberglass body.

    At that point I decided to cut my losses.

    https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/52472757796_099584eeb2_b.jpg

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