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Stellantis dealerships in Europe to sell EVs made by Leapmotor

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Stellantis plans to sell electric vehicles made by Leapmotor at its European dealerships from September in an unusual attempt by one of the continent’s biggest carmakers to capitalise on the ambitions of Chinese manufacturers to crack the regional market.

Leapmotor models will be available at Stellantis dealerships in nine markets, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, as the European carmaker moves rapidly to benefit from a tie-up it first struck with the Chinese group in October.

The investment saw Stellantis buy 20 per cent of Leapmotor for €1.5bn while the companies also formed a joint venture, Leapmotor International, that will be used to export the vehicles to Europe.

“With Leapmotor we will bring more affordable EVs to market . . . speed is of the essence,” said Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis, which owns the Citroën and Fiat brands. “We have a cost competitiveness in China that we will leverage in the European market.”

The vehicles exported from China would mainly compete with offerings from other Chinese carmakers, such as BYD and SAIC’s MG brand, which are making aggressive inroads into the European market.

“It’s quite obvious that Chinese competitors will grab 10pc market share in the European market in 2024,” said Tavares. “We have no intention of leaving that [middle class] price band open to our Chinese competitors.”

“History shows that the European consumer always arbitrates in favour of pricing — and as soon as European governments stopped incentives the demand for EVs collapsed,” Tavares added.

Western carmakers have repeatedly raised fears they will lose out to Chinese EV groups as they expand beyond their domestic market. The joint venture between Leapmotor and Stellantis marked a significant change of strategy from the European company.

The move by Stellantis and Leapmotor to roll out their plan in a matter of months comes as European authorities, which have long championed the growth of the EV market, weigh how to respond to China’s ambitions.

Brussels is in the final stages of a probe into whether local subsidies have helped electric cars made in China undercut European-made models. Analysis from policy group Transport & Environment has estimated that a quarter of electric vehicles sold in the EU this year will be made in China. including Tesla models.

Under the agreement struck in October, Leapmotor cars will also be produced at Stellantis plants around the world if restrictive tariffs mean they cannot be cheaply exported.

“It’s a win-win to work with Stellantis: we have cutting edge tech and Stellantis have their worldwide dealership network,” said Zhu Jiangming, chief executive of Leapmotor. 

Leapmotor’s T03 and C10 models would be sold in the UK through Stellantis dealers from March 2025.

“Leapmotor benefits from an established player in a new market for them as they look to de-risk from a crowded and highly competitive, low margin domestic market,” said Matthias Schmidt, an independent auto analyst.

“Access to European production plants at underutilised Stellantis facilities” would also allow Leapmotor to navigate any potential changes to import tariffs in Europe, he added.


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