Chinese electric vehicle upstarts Li Auto and Xpeng saw declines in August, while Huawei’s auto partner Seres and Geely’s Zeekr saw strong growth. Among them, Li Auto reported a record decline in August deliveries, more than 50%, as the electric vehicle maker’s new crossovers cannibalized sales of its existing model. Seres deliveries up28% in August while Geely’s EV brand Zeekr grew more than 42%. 

Why it matters: Li Auto’s shortfall took place when Seres and Zeekr saw growth, highlighting a more competitive EV landscape and a preference among Chinese consumers to gravitate towards the latest products, according to Tu Le, managing director of consultancy Sino Auto Insights.

Li Auto’s decline in August: Li Auto’s deliveries fell more than half in August to 4,571 crossover vehicles from a month earlier, extending a month-on-month decline of 21.3% in July.

  • “Li Auto and Xpeng have recently had some high-profile vehicle launches that have likely led them to lose focus a bit,” said Le. “For Li Auto specifically, the new L9 has really cannibalized sales of the Li One, so it’s like they only have one product in the market again.” 
  • This echoed a comment Shen Yanan, Li Auto’s president, made during an earnings call last month, in which he acknowledged that many customers “with enough budget” preferred the L9, the company’s second sports utility vehicle, over the cheaper Li One. The company began delivering the L9 on Aug. 30.
  • Analysts also worry that the upcoming L8 crossover, confirmed by chief executive Li Xiang as a redesigned model of the Li One and scheduled for delivery in November, will have an even more significant cannibalization effect. 
  • The eight-year-old EV maker on Monday confirmed to state media outlet Jiemian that it will phase out production of the Li One three years after its release in 2019, introducing a price reduction of RMB 20,000 ($2,882) for its first car model in some markets.
  • The price cuts have angered some owners who accused the company of cheating them over the new car release and price changes. At least 1,000 Li One owners have filed complaints against the company on “Black Cat,” a complaint platform owned by Chinese tech firm Sina.

Rise of Seres and Geely: Meanwhile, Seres and Geely have both seen healthy growth in August. Xpeng Motors’ deliveries also declined by 16.9% to 9,578 vehicles in August from a month earlier, while Nio saw deliveries grow 6.2% month-on-month to 10,677 vehicles. There is a major concern about demand for Xpeng’s current models, as buyers might wait for the introduction of its G9 crossover, scheduled for delivery by year-end, as well as a retrofitted P7 sedan set to be released next year.

  • Huawei’s manufacturing partner Seres saw a monthly record by delivering 10,045 vehicles in August, up from 7,807 vehicles in July, while Geely’s premium EV brand Zeekr also reported a record delivery number of 7,166 vehicles, representing a 42.7% month-on-month growth.
  • Le expects that sales of both Seres and Zeekr will continue to grow. With Seres being able to sell via Huawei retail stores and Geely backing Zeekr, these “pseudo-startups” have support structures that most other “true” EV startups do not, which gives them quite an advantage, Le added.

Context: BYD maintained its leadership in the market by delivering 174,915 vehicles last month. Tesla is expected to have delivered more than 77,000 cars from its Shanghai facilities, according to estimates by the China Passenger Car Association on Sept. 1.  

  • BYD and Tesla have much more production capacity than their counterparts, Le said, adding that the two companies’ leadership will continue amid “particularly tough” competition in the mainstream, small- to medium-sized SUV segments.

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