CHENGDU, China, April 12 (Reuters) – Chinese electric vehicle maker Zeekr on Wednesday launched a compact, all-electric sport utility vehicle, as it targeted a premium market in China that has been dominated by German automakers.

The Geely-owned [RIC:RIC:GEELY.UL] brand said it also planned to offer the SUV-styled Zeekr X and its Zeekr 001 EV sedan in Western Europe without saying when that would be.

With a starting price of 189,800 yuan ($27,615.31) in China, the Zeekr X offers features such as facial recognition to unlock the car and an option for an in-vehicle refrigerator, Chief Executive Andy An told an event in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu.

The company will start delivering the Zeekr X in China from June with a target of delivering 40,000 this year, An said.

Zeekr’s event to launch the new model took place ahead of the Auto Shanghai show, scheduled for April 18-27, where automakers such as Chinese brand Nio (9866.HK), and Germany’s BMW (BMWG.DE) are expected to show off their latest models.

An said Zeekr would provide more details on its strategy for overseas sales then. After Europe, Zeekr will target Asian markets outside China, An said without providing details.

The Geely-owned EV maker has jointly developed a small EV for use as a robotaxi in partnership with Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving technology unit Waymo.

An said Zeekr had no current plan to sell its EVs directly to U.S. consumers.

EV makers such as Zeekr and Nio have taken market share from German automakers such as Mercedes Benz (MBGn.DE) and BMW in China by launching EV models more quickly.

In also targeting Europe, Zeekr joins a range of Chinese automakers that are selling or planning to deliver EVs for that market, including BYD (002594.SZ), Xpeng (9868.HK) and SAIC’s MG brand.

French auto consultancy Inovev estimates Chinese brands will represent up to 20% of EVs sold in Europe by 2030.

Pure electric and plug-in hybrid cars, accounted for 44% of first-quarter sales of premium cars in China, data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show.

While Geely founder Eric Li has ambitions for Zeekr, it lags EV peers in China.

It sold 15,234 of its two existing models – the 001 sedan and the 009 multi-purpose vehicle – in the first quarter, accounting for just 2% of China’s battery electric vehicle sales. By comparison, Nio sold 31,041 vehicles in the same period while Tesla (TSLA.O) sold 137,429.

Zeekr aims to double annual sales in 2023 to about 140,000 vehicles.

($1 = 6.8730 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Zoey Zhang and Brenda Goh; Editing by David Goodman, Barbara Lewis and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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