Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Leapmotor is taking ambitious steps to expand its global footprint and ensure its survival in a rapidly consolidating EV market. The company's CEO, Zhu Jiangming, revealed in an interview at the Munich auto show that Leapmotor is targeting a substantial increase in sales and exploring partnerships outside China to license its cutting-edge EV technology.
Leapmotor, an eight-year-old player in the EV sector, is embarking on a mission to export its EVs, starting with markets in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The company is also set to launch five new models, all built on a fresh platform, designed not only for its own use but also for licensing to other automakers.
“To survive, we have to achieve at least 500,000 to 1 million units of annual sales globally. It would take at least two to three years for us to achieve that,” noted Zhu Jiangming, emphasizing the imperative for global expansion.
Acknowledging the evolving landscape of the auto industry, Zhu commented, “The auto industry has to be consolidated. The top 10 automakers in the world all have annual sales of more than 4 million units. It is hard to achieve such a scale in China alone. Therefore, globalization is a must.”
Leapmotor reported robust sales figures in its home market in 2022, with nearly 111,000 EVs sold, representing a significant increase from just over 44,000 units in 2021. However, it faces stiff competition from industry giants such as Volkswagen, BYD, and Toyota, which collectively sold close to 2 million vehicles in the Chinese market in 2022.
As Leapmotor introduces its new EV models, it is also actively seeking collaborations with established automakers beyond China. The company is open to licensing its EV platforms, battery and motor technology, and EV-ready chassis assemblies. While specifics regarding potential partners remain undisclosed, the move aligns with a broader trend of European automakers looking to tap into China's EV expertise.
Germany's Audi, for instance, is reportedly in discussions with SAIC Motor Corp to acquire an electric vehicle platform from the Chinese state-owned automaker. Similarly, Volkswagen has announced plans to utilize a platform developed by Xpeng for its new EVs. Leapmotor's CEO Zhu Jiangming sees an opportunity for further collaboration, stating, “What they lack the most is the software development capabilities, and it is perhaps the quickest way for them to seek technology partnerships to shore up the weakness.”
Zhu also emphasized that for a Chinese automaker to consider establishing a factory in Europe, annual sales of nearly 500,000 vehicles would be a prerequisite. This strategic outlook underscores Leapmotor's commitment to navigating the evolving landscape of the global EV market and securing its position in the industry's future.