Geely, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It has more brands in its stable than Volkswagen Group. It owns Volvo Cars, Polestar, Proton, Lotus, the British carmaker formerly known as Daimler, Geometry, Link & Co, the EV Taxi Company, and probably a few more we don’t even know about. It also has created a new brand called Zeekr and built a state of the art vehicle assembly plant it calls the Intelligent Factory in Ningbo, China, a coastal city south of Shanghai.
We reported recently that Geely plans to build an electric autonomous vehicle in conjunction with Waymo. That vehicle may be carrying the Zeekr brand, but what really should get people excited about Zeekr is the 001, a sporty, coupe-style SUV that looks a little like the svelte Jaguar I-Pace. The Zeekr 001 is projected to have the performance of a Tesla Model X at half the price.
Every manufacturer today has a basic EV platform. Volkswagen has its MEB, GM has Ultium, and Hyundai has its E-GMP. Geely calls its platform SEA, which stands for Sustainable Experience Architecture. It operates on 800 volts and can be configured for either single or dual electric motors. In its top level trim with a 100 kWh battery, it can deliver 536 horsepower (400 kW) and 566 lb-ft (765 Newton-meters) of torque, according to Motor Authority.
The Zeekr 001 can scoot to 60 mph in under 4 seconds and reach a top speed of 124 miles per hour. Using a high power DC fast charger, it can replenish the battery from 10% SOC to 80% SOC in just 30 minutes, says Top Gear. All this goodness comes at a starting price (in China) of around $46,000. The top level dual motor car sells for just around $56,000 and offers over 436 miles (700 km) of range.
As my colleague Jo Borras informed us in April, “Zeekr seems to be to Geely what Lincoln is to Ford — namely an upscale offering utilizing the parent company’s economies of scale to drive down costs while serving as a test bed for new, expensive technologies and dealer programs. You can see that in Geely’s official release, which reads, ‘Zeekr will create a new ecosystem that is focused on the full integration of the end user into a new super ecosystem focusing on the full service of end user requirements with an innovation as standard approach in terms of sales and servicing’.”
Deliveries of the Zeekr 001 didn’t begin until late October, but the car was fast out of the gate, selling a total of 2211 vehicles through the end of November. According to Inside EVs, the company said in a recent press release, “Capacity at the Zeekr Intelligent Factory, one of the world’s most advanced vehicle facilities, is now ramping up to accommodate the unprecedented demand for the 001. Zeekr will continue to prioritize local market customers ahead of its planned global roll-out from 2023.”
Europe is definitely on Geely’s radar but so is the US. Just last week, the company announced a partnership with Waymo to build an autonomous electric vehicle that may be branded as a Zeekr. It has announced it will develop an electric pickup truck based on the SEA platform. Care to guess which country leads the world in pickup truck sales?
Why Geely has so many brands in play is a bit odd. The Zeekr 001 was originally introduced as the Lynk & Co Zero concept around this time last year, but it’s pretty certain Ford would kick up a fuss if someone started selling cars in America with a name that sounds a lot like Lincoln. Will Americans learn to like the Zeekr name? If the price is right, they most definitely will.