Li Auto aims to double its China market share in high-end sports utility vehicles to 20% in 2023, encouraged by buoyant demand from the country’s emerging middle class, chief executive Li Xiang said on Monday.
The electric vehicle maker also reported a solid rise in fourth quarter revenue and an upbeat outlook for the current quarter. Despite intensifying competition and slowing demand in China’s EV market, Li Auto is on track to launch its first all-electric model later this year.
Why it matters: Li Auto has set an annual sales goal higher than analysts had anticipated and much more positive than those from the likes of Nio and Xpeng Motors. If achieved, it would make Li Auto the first Chinese automaker to capture a significant share of the country’s premium car segment, according to Sun Shaojun, founder of auto consumer service platform Che Fans.
Rosy 2023 outlook: If met, the market share goal would more than double last year’s share of 9.5% and equates to an annual sales volume of around 300,000 vehicles in the Chinese premium SUV segment, Li said during an earnings call. This is higher than the 270,000 units forecasted by Bernstein analysts.
- The key to success on this front is a strong product portfolio that covers a broader customer base, according to Li. The carmaker estimates sales in the segment of between 1.4 million and 1.5 million units this year, including gas-powered and electrified crossovers, with a price range of RMB 300,000 to RMB 500,000 ($43,205 to $72,009).
- Li said that vehicle delivery would likely reach 30,000 units per month during the second quarter as shipments of the newly-launched L7 begin in April. Li sees little chance of cannibalization between the five-seat L7 and its larger sibling, the L8. The former is intended to attract small nuclear families comprising two or three members, while the latter targets two-children or three-generation households.
All-electric lineup: Li Auto is on track to launch its first pure electric vehicle model, which will be equipped with Qualcomm’s latest five-nanometer cockpit chip 8295, Li told investors. He added that the company’s battery EV series will cost between RMB 200,000 and RMB 500,000.
- The company sees high battery costs and inconvenient charging as some of the biggest issues for EV penetration and aims to promise future buyers the ability to add 400 kilometers (249 miles)-worth of charge in 10 minutes. Rival Xpeng pledged a similar experience with its premium SUV G9 late last year.
- Meanwhile, Li Auto acknowledged that it has been negotiating new price terms with suppliers, responding to an analyst question about reports that CATL has been offering big discounts on EV batteries, but declined to provide further details. President Ma Donghui said the company would commit to a multi-supplier strategy to ensure stable supply.
Solid Q4 results: Li Auto’s revenue increased 66.2% year-on-year to more than RMB 17.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, compared with estimates of RMB 17.6 billion, according to Bloomberg. Net income declined 10.5% annually to RMB 265 million but improved from a net loss of RMB 1.65 billion in the previous quarter.
- The Beijing-based automaker’s gross margin came out as 20.2% in the quarter, from 12.7% in the third quarter and fairly close to Tesla’s 25.6% over the same period. Peers Nio and Xpeng posted gross margins of 13.3% and 13.5% in the third quarter of 2022, respectively.
- Li Auto expects to deliver up to 55,000 vehicles in the first quarter of this year, which would represent an increase of 73.4% from a year ago. Overall sales of passenger electric cars declined 6.3% year-on-year in January, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association.
Context: Nio and Xpeng have both set a delivery target of around 200,000 vehicles this year as China’s EV market shifts into a lower gear, partly due to the phasing-out of EV purchase subsidies by the central government last December.
- Nio CEO William Li has said he expects deliveries this year to surpass the nearly 190,000 units Lexus sold in China last year. Xpeng is aiming for accumulated overall sales of 450,000 EVs this year, of which around 250,000 were delivered as of last year, according to an internal letter obtained by local media outlets.
- Li Auto’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Li One, ranked fifth in terms of sales in the Chinese premium SUV segment with the shipment of 78,791 units last year, the CPCA figures showed. Tesla’s Model Y topped the chart with deliveries of 315,314 units, while Mercedes-Benz’s GLC, Audi’s Q5, and BMW’s X3 each booked sales of more than 140,000 units.