Home » Why This Chinese Car You’ve Never Heard Of Could Be A Real Tesla Model Y Competitor

Why This Chinese Car You’ve Never Heard Of Could Be A Real Tesla Model Y Competitor

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Let’s take a break from talking about EPA regulations to talk about something more important: The Zeekr X. This is a new Chinese EV aimed squared at the Tesla Model Y both in its home market and, especially, in Europe. Purely on paper, this thing seems like winner: It’s cheaper, it has a competitive range, it looks fresher, and it’s just about as fast.

In addition to Zeekr, today’s news roundup will also hit up Ferrari sales, and the extreme popularity of the plug-in hybrid Jeep. But first, mother trucking Zeekr.

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The Zeekr X Looks Extremely Competitive

Zeekr X

How long does it take a car company to enter a market, become competitive, and then go on to build something that’s a segment leader? For a Japanese automaker like Toyota, it took roughly 30 years to go from the Toyopet Crown in 1958 to the remarkable Lexus LS400 in 1989.  The Koreans were a little quicker in the United States. The company started strong with the popular but mediocre Hyundai Excel in 1986, reaching full market competitiveness with the fifth-gen Elantra (I’d also entertain an argument for the similar era Santa Fe) around 2010.

Zeekr has a few advantages. First and foremost, it’s part of a Chinese mega corp, Geely, which has been building cars since the mid 1980s. Second, Geely has acquired numerous companies with hundreds of years of combined experience (Lotus, Volvo) to provide a leg up for its brands. [Editor’s Note: Geely also owns Polestar, and I really doubt Tesla is losing sleep over its Polestar competition. Tesla’s brand is larger-than-life, though it’d be a little silly if I didn’t recognize that sales will likely be encroached upon by stiffer EV competition as time goes on. -DT]. Third, the Chinese government has invested billions of dollars into making their EVs competitive and have, currently, the best infrastructure for creating cheap batteries. Finally, Zeekr is also a “Swedish” company and its cars are designed in Gothenburg.

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We’ve already talked about how much we love the Zeekr 009 minivan, but that’s not a car that would necessarily sell in Europe or the United States. You know what would? A crossover-SUV like the Model Y. Enter the Zeekr X.

According to Inside EVs, the Zeekr X will come in RWD and AWD format. The RWD version gets a single motor capable of producing 268 horsepower that delivers 348 miles of range (Chinese CLTC test cycle) from a 66 kWh battery back. You get all that car for about $27,600, or 189,800 yuan. By comparison, in China, the Tesla Model Y costs 261,900 yuan, gets slightly lower range (338 miles) and is slower (0-62 mph in 6.9 seconds versus 5.8 seconds).

An AWD Zeekr X will reportedly get 422 horsepower out of two motors, reach 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds, and travel 318 miles on the CLTC standard. Compare this to the performance Model Y in China, which hits 62 mph in the same time, but benefits from a larger battery pack and travels a much more impressive 381 miles on a charge. The bigger difference, though, is the price. A Model Y performance costs about 361,900 yuan in China, or about $53,000. An AWD Zeekr X? That’ll be 209,800, or just $30,500.

The Zeekr X also gets wireless charging, a giant panoramic canopy, a 14.6-inch floating screen and the option of four or five seats in the rear.

Tesla has a ton of brand cachet that, of course, Zeekr does not. Will people accept Chinese automakers in Europe? Given the warm response I saw to Lynk & Co. cars in France, my guess is the thrift will overcome the xenophobia.

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While prices will definitely go up when they start exporting cars, Zeekr is definitely aiming for European sales by the end of the year. Anyway, enough about Zeekr.

Zeekr Hires Former Lexus Chief To Run Europe

Zeekr 1
Zeekr 001.

Psych! More news on the Zeekr front today as Spiros Fotinos, former director of Lexus Europe, has been named CEO of Zeekr Europe.

From Reuters:

China’s Zeekr has hired a former Lexus executive to helm its operations in Europe, according to a memo seen by Reuters, as the electric vehicle (EV) maker plans to sell into the region later this year.

Spiros Fotinos, who spent 24 years with Toyota (7203.T) and led the brand management of Lexus globally, joined Zeekr in September as the chief executive officer of Zeekr Europe to oversee the brand’s operation in the region, the memo showed.

That’s, uh, a pretty good hire, and underscores how seriously Zeekr is taking Europe.

Jeep Dominates The Plug-In Hybrid Market In The U.S.

Jeep Wrangler 4xe

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It’s worth mentioning again that the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, not the Prius Prime, is the dominant plug-in electric hybrid vehicle (PHEV) in the United States. There’s a good roundup of why in this Automotive News piece, so I’m going to focus on the hilarious numbers.

In 2022, Jeep sold 42,469 Wrangler 4Xes. You know how many Toyota Prius Primes were delivered in 2022? Just 11,857. Even if you combine the RAV4 Prime and Prius Prime, you still end up short of the 4Xe in sales. Some of this, of course, is a supply chain issue. I’d also argue that not a lot of people are cross-shopping a RAV4 Prime and a 4xe.

Just to compare, a Wrangler 4xe has a combined MPGe of 49 and an ev-only range of 22 miles. The RAV4 Prime, by comparison, gets a combined MPGe of 94 and an ev-only range of 42 miles. From the Automotive News piece, here’s an even bigger number:

Jeep’s entrenchment in the PHEV market has become even clearer this year. Wrangler 4xe sales increased 72 percent in the first quarter, representing 38 percent of the total for the nameplate, and it was joined at the top by another Jeep, the Grand Cherokee 4xe that went on sale in late 2022. Jeep sold 7,222 Grand Cherokee 4xe models in the quarter, accounting for 13 percent of that nameplate’s total volume.

Yes, about 4-in-10 Jeep Wrangler buyers got the hybrid option! Some of that may be spurred by the quirk in federal tax credits for the model that’ll expire soon, but those are big numbers. While people going from a Prius to a Wrangler isn’t going to help the environment, consumers trading their older Jeeps for significantly more efficient new models can’t hurt.

I’m curious what other cars could benefit from a PHEV model? Mustang?

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Ferrari Has Sold All Its Cars, Again

Left Front Three Quarter

Do you want a Ferrari? Good for you! You can’t have one. At least, it’ll be hard to get one now. You want an F8 Tributo? I’m sorry, perhaps you’d be interested in buying a Purosangue first? And by “perhaps you’d be interested” I mean, “you need to order one.” If that’s a problem, I’m sure the Mclaren dealer down the street can help you out.

In this quick little update from Reuters we get a glimpse into the order books of Ferrari and, well, they’re all ordered.

Elkann said the Italian company’s two latest models, the 296 GTS plug-in hybrid car and the Purosangue four-seater had boosted its product portfolio, “delivering a record number of orders well into 2024”.

Ferrari has promised a total of 15 new models between 2023 and 2026, including its first full-electric car, which Elkann reiterated on Friday is expected in 2025.

So, if you’ve never bought a Ferrari before, my guess is that to get the Ferrari you want, you’ll need to order at least one Ferrari you don’t want, to be delivered in 2024, so you can order the one you do want, so you can get it in 2025 or 2026.

Not a bad business.

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Your Turn

What car needs a PHEV option?

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Photos: Stellantis, Zeekr, Ferrari

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NotSpanky
NotSpanky
10 months ago

“I’m interested in that new Geely-backed electric car designed in Gothenburg”
“You mean the Volvo?”
“No no, the newer one…”
“Oh yeah, I guess Polestar is its own company now, that’s right”
“No, the other other one…”
“…”
“Whatever, I’ll just buy a BYD”

I know Chinese companies like to split off separate brands to micro target different audiences, but how many different Swedish Geely brands are actually needed?
I would understand if they wanted to augment Volvo and Polestar with a lower cost Chinese-designed brand for exports to western markets (but then they already have… how many of those? Genuine question, I don’t know but assume at least 3 being positioned for exports).
I mean, it looks nice enough, although the dual motor specs sound more comparable to the middle child dual motor Y than the Performance Y. And I’m sure they’ll sell quite a few. But still not sure why that couldn’t be under Volvo or Polestar, especially since Volvo will be all electric within a few years as well.

Goof
Goof
10 months ago

It’ll be interesting to see how big a resurgence of interest there is in the newest Prius.

Supposedly a big reason why Toyota stepped up its game on exterior styling, interior and power was that interest was falling off from increasingly more BEVs being available.

We’ll see how the new Prius and Prius Prime shakes out towards the end of the year, when they’ve been available in volume for a long enough time.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

Enzo must be rolling in his grave that the company he created is selling bloated CUVs, more than any other model.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
10 months ago

PHEV all the things, but do it like the Toyota/GM do(did) with the planetary transmissions to make them actually MORE reliable than a regular transmission, and can handle more torque from the electric motor. The “add-on” PHEVs(Hyundai/Kia/Jeep) add more complexity and aren’t a really solid solution.

Gee See
Gee See
10 months ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

You mean one that is inline with the motor replacing the torque convertor? Basically that’s ZF’s transmission, used in longitudinal applications like BMW 3series, X5 PHEV https://www.electrive.com/2019/07/11/zf-reveals-more-details-to-hybrid-drive/

Toyota with latitudinal engines like RAV4 etc uses eCVT, I surmise for packaging reasons.

Gee See
Gee See
10 months ago

Interesting contrast that Audi pulled PHEV out of China https://www.teslarati.com/audi-axes-phev-sales/

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