Geely bets on high-tech, new-energy cars

Chinese auto maker Geely is best known for its low-priced cars, but the company hopes to reinvent itself as an innovator through new-energy and Internet-equipped vehicles.

The company must be willing to abandon its old ways to achieve the transformation, according to chairman Li Shufu.

“To make our factories fit for advanced manufacturing and high environmental standards, we have built anew after tearing down almost all the old. We put up to tens of billions of yuan into each factory,” Li said.

Geely has factories in more than 10 cities across the country. Its factory in the northwestern city of Lanzhou was expanded earlier this year, improving annual capacity from 50,000 cars to 120,000 cars, and annual capacity for car components reached 200,000 units.

Geely announced last month that it would speed up its transition from producing traditional cars to making new-energy cars.

By 2020, new-energy cars will account for more than 90 per cent of all Geely’s sales, the company said.

“Geely will be a new-energy car company in five years,” CEO An Conghui said.

Exploring a bigger market is also part of the transition. For most of this year, growth of car sales in China has tumbled, forcing auto makers to adapt to new challenges.

“Chinese car makers will aim at a bigger global market, including developed economies,” said Li Yifan, vice president of Geely.

Geely has set up three research centers and four design centers worldwide. It has hired more than 4,000 people in research and development, and more than 300 designers work for Geely in Goteborg of Sweden, Shanghai, Barcelona and California.

But the new-energy car transition could be bumpy.

New-energy cars only make up a tiny share of car sales, and with the government expected to roll out fewer subsidies, the competition will become fiercer.

“It’s a battle with no outcome yet,” the Geely vice president said.

In addition to new-energy cars, Geely also wants to lead the industry in Internet-enabled “connected cars.”

Geely said its new model, the XC90, is equipped with advanced communication technology, allowing use of big data for navigation and other functions. Geely said it has successfully tested 100 XC90 cars in Goteborg on their self-driving ability.

As Uber-like services change urban public transportation, Geely also plans to tap into China’s ride-on-demand market with its own app.

The auto maker said it has set up a new firm to develop a ride-hailing app that is currently being tested in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo and will soon expand to include Shanghai, Hangzhou and Kunming.

Geely, which plans to use a fleet of its own vehicles for rides, sees the service as a channel for potential consumers to get to know its cars.

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