Exclusive: Geely plans to turn maker of London black cabs into EV powerhouse

COVENTRY, England, Jan 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely ( 0175.HK ) is planning a big investment to turn London’s iconic black taxi maker into a high-volume, light model All electric with commercial and passenger vehicles. Company officials told Reuters.

The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) is also looking to expand its business, which includes cars that manage their own configuration and recognize their owner’s preferences to help them book jobs.

“We need an open product portfolio. We need to invest heavily in technology and infrastructure,” LeVC Chief Executive Alex Nan said at the taxi headquarters in Coventry, Central England. “Geely will make a consistent investment in LEVC because this is a unique project.”

LEVC builds a hybrid taxi model that starts at around 66,000 pounds ($81,500), with a battery that provides 64 miles (103 km) of range and a fuel tank that gives it a total of more than 300 miles. The pandemic affected the company’s business and laid off 140 workers in October.

Nan said that LEVC and Geely would like to attract other investors to the empty portfolio that is leaving it and wants to cooperate with other car manufacturers to develop new technologies.

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Company officials said the amount invested by Geely would be revealed later. Meanwhile, the Chinese group, which took full ownership of LEVC in 2013, has invested 500 million pounds in it.

“Geely supports the new transformation plan set by the LEVC board and company leaders,” Geely said in a statement.

In 2021, Geely announced a 2 billion pound investment in another division, the British luxury car maker Lotus, to expand the production of its sports cars and build SUVs and high-end sedans in Britain and China. Geely is following a similar approach with its growing LEVC strategy, officials said.

Britain’s EV pie was disrupted last week when start-up Britishvolt, which had planned to build a battery factory in northeast England, filed for bankruptcy.

“We need to make sure that the UK environment as a whole is competitive and has its place on the world stage,” said LEVC chief executive Chris Allen.

Ready to move quickly

Geely has several brands including Volvo (VOLCARb.ST) and – through its joint venture with Volvo – Polestar. Zeekr, another brand in the group, filed for a US initial public offering last month.

As such, Geely hopes to avoid the confusion that larger EV makers BYD ( 002594.SZ ) and Tesla ( TSLA.O ) have avoided.

Allen said the LEVC is exploring commercial and passenger vehicle models on electric platforms. It can rely on other groups already owning EVs to “move forward faster and faster”.

The company already uses infotainment systems and software developed by Volvo in cars from the Swedish automaker, allowing it to cut costs, Allen said.

“There’s nothing we can’t deliver in the short term if we want to, but it’s just a question of time,” he said, adding that LEVC could have a full range of EVs in road in five years.

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“But in two years, will the industry be ready, will the infrastructure be there, will the consumer confidence be there?”

LEVC currently has the capacity to build 3,000 taxis per year running in one shift at its Coventry office. Allen said that could easily be increased to 20,000 and the plant has room to expand. It could also rely on manufacturing in China as Lotus has, Allen said. A large car company produces about 300,000 cars a year.

“There’s a lot of value in our product that hasn’t been maximized,” Allen said. “This is about growing LEVC into a globally recognized brand and expanding our offering into as many spaces as we can.”

($1 = 0.8095 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey, Additional reporting by Zoey Zhange in Shanghai and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing Editing by Mark Potter

Our principles: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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