Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. plans to launch a new brand of electric cars, according to people familiar with the matter, as the owner of Volvo seeks to become more competitive in a segment of the EV market dominated by Tesla Inc.
The company is applying for a slew of marques that will be housed under its Lingling Technologies unit, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private matters. The brands include Zeekr EVA, Zeekr Power and Zeekr OS, according to the people. The Zeekr brand will market EVs targeted at the premium segment of the market. The plans were reported earlier by Reuters.
A representative for Geely declined to comment.
Geely's billionaire founder Li Shufu is helming the company's second attempt to electrify its product lineup after a previous effort, known as the Blue Geely Initiative, failed to meet its goal of having 90% of Geely sales consist of new-energy vehicles by 2020. Geely, which became the country's biggest private carmaker by winning customers in the lower-to-mid-market segment, is now eyeing the premium electric-car market to lure buyers from rivals such as Tesla and the Nasdaq-listed Nio Inc.
Over the past few months, Geely has been pushing further into EVs, forging major collaboration pacts with companies from search-engine heavyweight Baidu Inc. to Apple Inc.'s Taiwanese manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd. On Monday, Geely Technology Group Co. signed an agreement with local authorities to invest 30 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) to construct a battery factory in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province with an annual capacity of 42 gigawatt-hours.
The moves mark a shift in the approach of Li, who made his mark on the global car industry over the past decade with a run of investments in traditional, European automakers like Volvo and Mercedes Benz maker Daimler AG.
Read more: Billionaire Li Shufu Lays Groundwork for His Next Big Move
In China, traditional automakers like Geely and Volkswagen AG are jockeying with upstart EV makers like Nio, Xpeng Inc. and Li Auto Inc. for a slice of what is now the world's largest EV market. Demand is forecast to soar in coming years as consumers embrace cleaner automobiles and the cost of EVs tumbles. Research firm Canalys said in a report last month that EV sales in China may climb more than 50% this year alone.
Geely will also use Zeekr to venture into a more user-centered, lifestyle approach to the car sector adopted by Nio, which has special clubhouses for drivers and built customer loyalty through events and merchandise like clothing, food and electronic devices, the people said. Among the marques Geely has applied for there is a Zeekr brand reserved for beer, according to commercial registration information.
Geely sold 68,142 new energy vehicles last year, accounting for about 5% of total deliveries.