Chinese electric vehicle maker Li Auto released its cheapest ever car on Wednesday, a five-passenger compact sports utility vehicle that the company says has been developed to appeal to women and small families, and that it hopes will take on bigger rivals from BMW to Mercedes-Benz.
The company also launched a new, RMB 20,000 ($2,948)-cheaper version of the L8, its six-seater crossover, offering customers a de facto price cut in response to increased competition from carmakers such as Tesla.
Why it matters: Some industry observers have voiced bullish views on Li Auto as the company keeps expanding its portfolio with new vehicles aimed at meeting the needs of growing Chinese middle-class families.
- Li Auto and Nio should still be able to grow their sales because of their brand new products despite forecasts of a challenging 2023, said Tu T. Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights.
- “The market has become so competitive that we will likely see many EV makers do whatever they can to protect any share they have been able to carve out in the market,” Le added.
Details: Li Auto on Thursday introduced the L7 extended-range SUV, the company’s first five-seater explicitly designed for Chinese nuclear families. It measures around 5 meters in length and spans a 3,005-millimeter-long wheelbase, bigger than many similar mid-size models.
- For comparison, the BMW X3, Audi Q5L, and Mercedes-Benz GLC crossovers are all less than 4.8 meters in length and have a maximum wheelbase of 2,973 mm. The L7 is also more spacious than its rivals the BYD Tang, Xpeng Motor G9, and Huawei-backed Aito M7.
- The car boasts a luxurious interior and roomy passenger space, with a so-called “Queen’s seat” mode in the back providing leg room of almost 1.2 meters and well-bolstered seatbacks.
- The EV maker is targeting women in China who are increasingly picking the family car. Speaking at a conference on Wednesday, Han Ling, a product manager of Li Auto, specifically used female terms of address a dozen times during a 10-minute speech, according to a TechNode calculation.
- The L7 SUV will be equipped with a supercomputing platform – powered by two of Nvidia’s Orin X chips or by a Horizon Robotics Journey 5 processor depending on the model, and will use cameras and lidar sensors for driver assistance on Chinese highways.
- The Meituan-backed carmaker plans to send selected customers a beta version software update for assisted driving technology on busy urban streets in the fourth quarter of 2023. Rival Xpeng Motors has been implementing a similar update since September.
- The L7 crossover will have a driving range of 210 kilometers (130 miles) on a single charge and can drive for about 1,315 kilometers with a full fuel tank and a full charge, the same as its larger sibling, the L8. The company said its starting price will be RMB 319,800 and delivery is set to begin on Mar. 1.
- Meanwhile, chief executive Li Xiang on Wednesday revealed a so-called “Air” version of its L8 crossover with a starting price of RMB 339,800, down RMB 20,000 from the Pro model which used to be the lowest-priced option offered by the automaker.
Context: Beijing-headquartered Li Auto currently has three models of different sizes on sale, namely the full-size crossover L9, L8, and the L7, with a price range of around RMB 300,000 to RMB 400,000, in a segment traditionally dominated by global carmakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
- The L9 was China’s top-selling large-size electric SUV in December with 10,582 units shifted, four months after delivery began in August, while 10,189 units of the L8 crossover were sold in the month, according to figures compiled by the China Passenger Car Association. Both were lower than the 29,387 units of Tesla’s Model Y, but higher than the roughly 4,000 units Nio delivered of its ES7 and Xpeng delivered of its G9.