On Tuesday, Li Auto announced the L9, a full-size, three-row sports utility vehicle, as part of its stated ambitious plan to achieve 1.6 million vehicle sales by 2025. The car’s starting price is less than half that of similar offerings from the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Why it matters: With delivery planned to begin in August, the six-passenger L9 SUV will be the second production model from Li Auto and the Chinese EV maker appears to be confident that it might become a hit.

  • Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, chief executive Li Xiang declined to reveal specifics about order volume, but said that the L9 will outsell its existing Li One, which was the top-selling large new energy SUV in China last year, according to official figures.

Details: The L9, a plug-in hybrid, is described by the company as the pinnacle of large luxury SUVs, with what it says is a spacious interior specifically for Chinese three-generation family households. The automaker said the model offers passengers more room than other luxury automaker offerings.

  • The plug-in hybrid has a driving range of 215 kilometers (134 miles) on a full charge but can drive for about 1,315 miles with a full fuel tank and a full charge, a 20% increase compared with the company’s first model. It accelerates to 100 km in 5.3 seconds, according to Li Auto. 
  • The model comes with many high-end tech features. It has five screens, including two 15.7-inch touch-sensitive ones in the middle of the dashboard that control the in-car entertainment system, two smaller ones around the steering wheel,  and an OLED television screen for rear-seat passengers.
  • The vehicle uses a combination of 24 sensors to detect and predict road conditions, including eight 8-megapixel cameras, a long-range lidar unit, and two Nvidia Orin AI chips to enable autonomous driving.
  • The L9 will only enable assisted driving on highways, once delivered; the company has not revealed when its car system will support autonomous driving in city traffic. Its rival Xpeng Motors plans to send an over-the-air update that would allow its vehicles to drive autonomously on urban roads later this year.
  • The vehicle will sell for RMB 459,800 ($68,418), a price that the seven-year-old automaker claims is lower than any other similar SUV on the market. For comparison, the BMW X7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS crossovers start at RMB 1 million and RMB 1.07 million in China, respectively.

Context: Meituan-backed Li Auto has been at the forefront of the Chinese EV field with just one model on sale, recording deliveries of 90,491 Li One vehicles in 2021, a 177.4% increase from a year earlier. The sales number is close to the sales of all three of rival Nio’s models over the same period combined.

  • CEO Li Xiang has set an ambitious target of delivering 1.6 million vehicles annually by 2025, according to an internal memo obtained by Chinese media outlet Caixin in February 2021.
  • Li said earlier this month that monthly delivery of the latest model could reach more than 10,000 units starting from September, although investors now reportedly expect that number to be around 5,000-6,000 units due to supply chain constraints and Covid-19 control measures.
  • Earlier this month, Nio also launched a new SUV model, the ES7, with a starting price of RMB 468,000. Alibaba-backed Xpeng said in April that it will launch its second SUV model, the G9, this month.

READ MORE: Drive I/O | Nio, Xpeng, and Li Auto face more challenges after a mixed 2021

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen