Stellantis-Leapmotor JV to hit up Europe by September

Hoping to reach scale rapidly by year-end, the cooperation will test the appetite for Chinese EVs in Europe

Stellantis-Leapmotor JV to hit up Europe by September
Leapmotor International has the legal go-ahead to launch, with HQ in Amsterdam

Leapmotor International, a joint venture (JV) between Chinese OEM Leapmotor and US-European conglomerate Stellantis, will officially launch in the coming months with two EV offerings for the European market under the Chinese firm's brand.

The JV, which is weighted 51-49pc in Stellantis' favour, was first announced in October last year. Under the deal, Leapmotor says it is aiming to leverage Stellantis' commercial presence and distribution networks in Europe, while Stellantis will be able to offer cheap Chinese EVs in overseas markets, as well as gaining access to Leapmotor's software knowhow.

Stellantis also took a 21pc stake in the Chinese automaker after an investment of €1.5bn.

The JV will launch two EVs in major European markets beginning in September the C10, a D-segment family SUV, and the Leapmotor T03, an A-segment commuter car, more in line with the historical tastes of European car buyers. Stellantis says that at least one new EV will be launched each year for the next three years.

"Headquartered in Amsterdam, the management team led by CEO Tianshu Xin, a former Stellantis China executive, is now laying the groundwork for a successful introduction of the T03 and C10 first in the European markets," Stellantis says.

The JV is also targeting expansion into a series of new markets around the globe by the end of the year, which could provide a buffer against the likely EU introduction of steep tariffs against Chinese EVs and components, which is expected this summer. The two automakers also have the added luxury potentially introducing European manufacturing to circumvent any such rules of origin restrictions — with Stellantis' Tichy plant in Poland hotly tipped as a possible location.

"In late 2024, the Leapmotor product launch roll-out will expand to the Middle East & Africa (Turkey, Israel and French Overseas), India & Asia-Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia and India), and South America (Brazil and Chile)," Stellantis says.
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The JV will aim to establish 200 retail centres by the end of 2024. As the first high-profile joint operation to leverage a European OEM's distribution presence in its home continent with a new Chinese marque, the progress of Leapmotor International will be of great interest to the wider industry as a different gauge of appetite for Chinese-branded software-oriented EVs to European customers.

Other models include Chinese new entrants building from scratch (e.g. BYD, Nio, Xpeng, GWM), legacy European marques under Chinese control (e.g. Volvo, MG, Lotus, Smart), or European-headquartered start-ups with Chinese ownership (e.g. Polestar).

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