Home Featured Chinese high-end EV brand Zeekr expands into the Middle East

Chinese high-end EV brand Zeekr expands into the Middle East

Chinese high-end EV brand Zeekr expands into the Middle East


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Zeekr, the premium electric vehicle brand of Chinese automaker Geely, is launching in four Middle East countries next year as it intensifies its global push ahead of a planned US listing.

The brand joins other Chinese EV makers including Warren Buffett-backed BYD that are expanding overseas in search of growth at a time of slowing sales and fierce competition in China.

The expected $1bn Zeekr IPO would be the largest US listing by a Chinese firm since ride-hailing giant DiDi raised $4.4 billion in 2021. Since then, strained US-China ties and Beijing’s stricter cross-border listing rules have frozen the Chinese listing pipeline.

“Our competitive pricing strategy will be set to compete with traditional premium car brands such as BMW and Audi,” Chen Yu, a Zeekr vice-president, told the Financial Times.

“The Middle East is a relatively new market for EVs and there isn’t a matured brand offering of premium EVs in most of their markets,” he said.

The push into Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain comes at a time of growing co-operation between China and countries in the Gulf, as they deepen collaboration on a number of projects.

Zeekr was expected to deliver 10,000 units in the four markets combined by 2025, Chen said, adding that the company was also open to fundraising from investors in the Middle East. Zeekr’s cars are also expected to be launched in Israel by the end of the year. It has delivered about 150,000 cars in China since 2021.

The Chinese automaker is also expanding in Europe and has announced plans to start sales in Netherlands and Stockholm stores in the fourth quarter. But the EV makers are confronting pushback from Brussels, which in September launched an anti-subsidy investigation into a “flood” of Chinese electric vehicles.

A planned Zeekr IPO is the latest attempt by Geely’s owner, billionaire Li Shufu, to realise value from companies within his sprawling empire.

The group previously floated Volvo Cars in 2021 and performance EV brand Polestar through a Spac deal in 2022. It has filed the paperwork to list the Chinese arm of luxury sports car brand Lotus through a Spac deal.

To set up a sales network, Zeekr signed agreements with four top car dealers in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on September 28, Chen said.

Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy AutoForesight, said markets in the Middle East were a good fit for Zeekr cars because “consumers have the spending power” to buy the upper-end EVs.

Other carmakers are also deepening their presence in the region. NIO said it received $738.5mn in new capital from a fund owned by the Abu Dhabi government in June, while Saudi Arabia signed a $5.6bn deal with the Chinese parent of high-end EV brand Hiphi in the same month. 

“A Middle East push is actually working for some of the high-end Chinese EV brands, as they would face fewer political headwinds than they would in the US or market,” Zhang said.

Additional reporting by Simeon Kerr in Dubai


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