How the latest Chinese brand to hit Australia sets itself apart from Volvo, Polestar siblings

Posted on June 19, 2024Comments Off on How the latest Chinese brand to hit Australia sets itself apart from Volvo, Polestar siblings

Zeekr is still relatively unknown, but this Chinese electric vehicle (EV) brand has major global plans… even if they seem to overlap with those of the Volvo and Polestar brands also owned by the Geely Group.

“The architecture centre for all the Geely Group for electric architectures is actually inside Zeekr, so we are normally and so far we have been the first player to bring out a new vehicle on a new platform,” said Javier Garcia-Gallardo, head of Zeekr design in Shanghai, told media.

Founded in 2021, the Zeekr brand’s first model was the 001 which debuted the Group’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA).

This architecture encompasses multiple platforms, including the SEA1 platform used by the 001 and SEA-M used by the Mix people mover.

The SEA is now being rolled out to other brands within the Geely Group, including Volvo which has just introduced its first SEA-based model with the EX30.

As a premium small crossover, the EX30 appears to overlap with the Zeekr X, but the Zeekr brand’s Shanghai-based design boss says the two vehicles have very different approaches.

“When you look at the EX30, although it’s on the same architecture, it’s a much smaller car than the Zeekr X, has much less features, it’s much more clean and speaks more, I would say, to a European customer in this case,” said Mr Garcia-Gallardo.

“The [Zeekr X] is much more rich in terms of detailing, so I think they have a different approach in terms of target customer.”

Two other vehicles that appear to overlap are the Zeekr 009 and Volvo EM90 people movers, which even share the same basic body.

Thus far, only the Zeekr is available with a dual-motor all-wheel drive powertrain, leaving the Volvo with a less powerful single-motor rear-wheel drive configuration. The Zeekr also gets an opulent Grand edition.

The Geely Group is rolling out more and more EVs, many of which – chiefly Zeekr, Polestar, Volvo and Lotus models – sit within the premium space.

But Zeekr says it isn’t concerned about the overlap.

“There is a bit of competition in the market, both within the group and outside the group. This is something we actually embrace within the group, because we believe that helps us push each other,” said Mr Garcia-Gallardo.

“We, of course, have a lot of ingredients that are the same, but they help us push each other to make the bigger group successful.

“We do have a lot of collaboration and communication in the components that make sense to have that, and we compete in the other areas that are pushing more towards the brand differentiation.

“It’s not that only our portfolios are overlapping. I think right now, worldwide and especially here in China, the market is very, very competitive when it comes to the pricing strategies. So this is not just within our group, it’s outside.

“We have to compete at a pricing level and margin level in each one of the cars very aggressively. I understand that maybe from outside, all these brands are going down and positioning on top of each other.”

Mr Garcia-Gallardo wouldn’t say which of the various Geely Group brands is the most premium.

“Premium is in the eyes of the beholder, not the producer. I think it’s a bit naive for me to say which brand is… I think it’s the viewer, the observer who will ask this, and for sure it evolves during time,” he said.

Zeekr executives also wouldn’t confirm if all of the brand’s vehicles will be going global.

It currently offers five vehicles, and said it plans to launch at least two new models every year.

The lineup presently consists of the 001 large liftback; Mix and 009 people movers; X small SUV; and 007 mid-sized sedan.

“We start a product in China until we are confident about the reliability, do all the process of homologation and legislation for exporting this product, and then we see the needs of every market and we adapt the product to export globally,” said Mr Garcia-Gallardo.

Not every market will get the full lineup, either.

“There are markets where we are only bringing two products, there are markets where we are planning to bring five products,” he said.

Thus far, just two vehicles have been confirmed for the local Zeekr lineup: the 009 and the X.

The brand is making its Australian debut in the second half of 2024, though it has yet to confirm details on how it will sell its vehicles and how they’ll be priced.

Zeekr was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in May, and already sells vehicles in various European markets.

Its global design centre is in Gothenburg, Sweden, and it also has a R&D centre on the continent.

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