China new models February 2023: Zeekr 009 and Geely Panda mini land
Now that we have explored February 2023 Chinese wholesales, it’s time to review the new locally produced models for the month. This way you can stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the largest and most dynamic market in the world. This month we have 4 new models hitting Chinese roads, all of them Chinese which once again illustrates the trend towards local brands as they now account for 52.8% share of their home market vs. 42.6% a year ago in February 2022. To fully understand the scope of the Chinese market, make sure you consult our Exclusive Guide to all 199 active Chinese Brands.
1. Geely Panda mini (6,661 sales)
Geely used to be the most popular Chinese brand at home, but it has receded to #3 in 2022 and so far in 2023 below BYD and Changan. Sales are down -21.2% year-to-date, trailing the market, so a bit of fresh blood is needed. It comes in the form of this mini EV, the Geely Panda mini. Originally slated to be launched under the EV-only Geometry brand and named M2, Geely finally decided to park the Panda mini under its namesake brand. It resuscitates a nameplate the carmaker used from 2006 to 2016 for a small hatch. Bizarrely, the Panda mini was launched at a shopping mall in Hangzhou in December 2022.
Geely Panda mini interior
It is 3,065 mm long, 1,522 mm wide, 1,600 mm tall and has a wheelbase spanning 2,015 mm. It features a huge panoramic roof that almost covers the entire roof. The electric motor is front-mounted and has two power versions are available: 20 kW (27 hp) and 30 kW (41 hp), mated with a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery from Guoxuan High-Tech capable of providing 120 or 200 km range depending on the variant. Like many before it, the Panda mini is aimed squarely at the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, trying to bank on this model’s amazing success. It is priced from 39,900 to 55,800 yuan (5,450-7,600€ or US$5,800-8,100), which compares with 32,800-99,900 yuan for the Hongguang Mini EV, 39,900-57,500 yuan for the Chery QQ Ice Cream and 49,900-69,900 yuan for the Changan Lumin. Looking at sales potential, the Lumin peaked at 13,757 units in December 2022 and the QQ Ice Cream at 11,687 March 2022, so we’d want the Panda mini to hit 8,000 sales regularly to call it a success, and its first monthly figure is very encouraging.
Bar for success: 8,000 monthly sales
2. Exeed Yaoguang (1,770 sales)
Exeed is a semi-premium brand under Chery that has somewhat struggled to gain traction at home in the past few years. It has recently launched in Kazakhstan and Russia. Its Chinese wholesales are down -49.1% so far in 2023. This new mid-size coupe SUV, the Yaoguang, is therefore a welcome addition. It is 4781 mm long, 1920 mm wide and 1671 mm tall with a 2815mm wheelbase. The silhouette includes a suspended roof style. The Yaoguang is powered by a 2.0 TGDI turbo engine of 261 hp with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It comes in two-wheel and four-wheel drives, and a PHEV variant is scheduled to follow shortly.
Exeed Yaoguang interior
Looking at the dashboard, it features a 24.6-inch curved dual screen (12.3-inch each) powered by a Qualcomm chip, head-up display and copious amounts of leather of dubious colour in the picture above. The Yaoguang also sports a panoramic sunroof and 14 Sony speakers. It is available from 152,800 to 202,800 yuan (20,900-27,700€ or US$22,150-29,400). For comparison, the Exeed VX or Lanyue is priced from 179,900 to 233,900 yuan and the Exeed TX or Lingyun from 147,900 to 182,900 yuan. The Yaoguang will compete with the likes of the Geely Xingyue L (137,200-185,200 yuan) and the Changan UNI-K (145,900-184,900 yuan). Sales prospects remain limited given the brand’s pushy results of late.
Bar for success: 3,500 monthly sales
3. Beijing BJ60 (792 sales)
Unveiled at the 2022 Beijing Auto Show in April, the Beijing Off Road BJ60 finally hits the Chinese market. It is a full-size SUV coming at 5,020 mm long, 1,955 mm wide and 1,925 mm high with a 2,800 mm wheelbase, and the second largest Beijing Off Road model below the BJ90 (5,171 mm). It is available as a 5- and 7-seater. As is traditionally the case with Beijing Off Road models, the BJ60 comes with a plethora of 4WD tricks to help it conquer the most treacherous terrain. The BJ60 is a body-on-frame chassis underpinned with independent suspension. It has three locking differentials with and All Terrain four-wheel-drive control system. It has 2H, 4H, and 4L modes, and nine driving modes.
Beijing BJ60 interior
The BJ60 is powered by a 267 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. 0-100 km/h is eclipsed in just 6 seconds. The dashboard features a 12.8-inch middle screen, a 10.25-inch instrument panel, head-up display, a digital rear view mirror and, for the first time seen in any vehicle, a small 1.92-inch start button screen located in the centre of the dashboard in between the two vents. It also has an audio system with 12 speakers and an amplifier. Priced from 239,800 to 285,800 yuan (32,750-39,000€ or US$34,750-41,400), the BJ60 competes with the Haval H9 (214,800-279,800) and the Tank 500 (335,000-395,000 yuan). Although well respected and used in the Chinese countryside, BJ models have remained relatively niche, with the BJ40’s all time high being 4,272 sales last December. WE’ll therefore have a fairly conservative bar for success for the BJ60.
Bar for success: 1,800 monthly sales
4. Zeekr 009 (616 sales)
Zeekr is a luxury EV brand by Geely which has been met with fantastic success so far. Its first model, the 001 executive shooting brake, peaked at 11,337 sales in December 2022. The 009 is therefore its second nameplate and it stuns with its rather unconventional looks. Its grille design is called “Spring of Light” by Zeekr and is composed of 154 programmable LED dot-matrix lights. A luxury electric minivan, the 009 is 5,209 mm long, 2,024 mm wide and 1,856 mm high with a 3,205 mm wheelbase. It sits six persons in a 2-2-2 layout. The 009 is powered by two electric motors with a total output of 534 hp and is the first vehicle to use the Qilin cell-to-pack battery from CATL. There are two versions offered, one with a 116 kWh battery and 702 km range, and one with a 140 kWh battery and 822 km range. It eclipses the 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds, not bad for a 2,830 kg vehicle.
Zeekr 009 interior
As expected from such a high end vehicle, the 009 comes with over 30 driving assists, controlled by seven 8-megapixel cameras, four 2-megapixel surround view cameras, one ultra-long range millimetre wave radar, and 12 short-range ultrasonic radars. The dashboard features a 15.4-inch screen. Yamaha supplies the sound system through 20 speakers including headrest speakers on the first and second rows. The second row seats can enjoy a 15.6-inch screen hanging from the roof with a permanent 5G internet connection and a video conference function. The 009 does not come cheap: it is priced from 499,000 to 588,000 yuan (68,150-80,300€ or US$72,300-85,200) and will compete with the likes of the Denza D9 (335,800-465,800 yuan), LI L9 (459,800 yuan), Voyah Dreamer (369,900-689,900 yuan) and Buick Century (529,900-689,900 yuan). Although Zeekr has been an extraordinarily successful launch with the 300,000-403,000 yuan 001, this is a more expensive model and we expect it to sell significantly less.
Bar for success: 2,500 monthly sales