Chinese electric car maker Li Auto is under scrutiny over quality issues after a Chinese state media outlet reported over the weekend that a new L9 model broke its suspension during a test drive.

Li Auto announced on Monday that it has expanded its warranty terms to guarantee free repairs to the suspension parts on all L9 vehicles. 

Why it matters: The incident could potentially hurt the brand’s public image and impact sales of L9, its highly-anticipated electric crossover.

  • China’s state media CNR published on July 17 a report showing a picture of Li Auto’s L9 vehicles with a locked-up front wheel, reportedly caused by suspension problems.  

Details: Li Auto confirmed on Monday to Chinese media that a spring buffer part on one front wheel of an L9 became faulty after it drove over a pothole of 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) at the speed of 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing a day earlier. The automaker didn’t clarify whether the 20-centimeter refers to the width or the depth of the hole.

  • However, A Li Auto spokeswoman told Chinese media Jiemian that the faulty component involved in the accident was only used on trial vehicles, citing supply issues as the reason for its use and that the buffers on mass-produced L9 vehicles will be 2.5 times stronger and able to deal with collisions at higher speeds.
  • The response was followed by an announcement on Monday that the electric vehicle maker decided to extend the warranty on air spring parts to eight years or 160,000 km (99,419 miles) from the previous five years or 100,000 km.

Context: Li Auto launched the six-seater L9 plug-in hybrid SUV on June 22, with the seven-year-old automaker claiming it provides a state-of-the-art experience to drivers at less than half the price of German-made luxury cars.

  • The company later announced that pre-orders for the SUV, its second production model, had exceeded 30,000 in the first three days following the launch. Delivery is scheduled to begin in August.

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