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This Chinese EV Billionaire Has Tesla In His Sights, But Investors Are Growing Cautious

2018 Global Mobile Internet Conference Held In Beijing
He Xiaopeng speaks during the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) 2018 at China National … [+]
 
VISUAL CHINA GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES/VISUAL CHINA GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Xpeng Motors raced to a gain of 381% in its first three months of trading following its debut on the NYSE, as investors clamored to place their bets on the Guangzhou-based electric vehicle maker, but now that rally is losing some of its charge.

Most Chinese EV makers surrendered a portion of this year’s gains after short seller Hindenburg Research accused fellow EV company Kandi Technologies of falsifying revenues. Adding even further to the market jitters was a recent report of government probes into fellow EV makers Evergrande New Energy Vehicle and Shenzhen Baoneng.

Shi Ji, a Hong Kong-based research director at Haitong International, says the stocks are likely entering a correction phase. “The recent run-up in share prices isn’t entirely driven by fundamentals,” he says. “Investors are betting that electric vehicles will become mainstream. That is a trend, but no one knows when the turning point will come yet.”

Xpeng’s founder He Xiaopeng, whose current net worth is estimated at $10.1 billion, is in it for the long haul. The company was founded in 2014, and started out by targeting bargain hunters with its relatively low-cost G3 electric SUV that retails for less than $23,000.

It moved up the market with the April launch of P7, an electric sedan that starts at $35,000, which is designated to rival Tesla’s $38,000 Model 3 in China, according to Robert Cowell, a Shanghai-based analyst at research firm 86 Research.MORE FOR YOUA Fool With A Tool Is Still A FoolWhy Digital Onboarding And EKYC Are Key To The Insurance Sector’s Success16 Financial Strategies For Physical Stores In An E-Commerce Economy

“P7 is very similar to Model 3,” he says. “But it is a competitive vehicle as well, and it has found a piece of the market.”

More On ForbesNo Frog In A Well: Alibaba-Backed XPeng Founder Talks About Entrepreneurism, EVs

The P7’s main selling point is that it offers a driving range of 706 kilometers on a single charge. And similar to the Model 3, the vehicle is equipped with an autopilot system for highway driving and autonomous parking as well.

Xpeng delivered 6,210 P7s in the third quarter this year, accounting for the bulk of its 8,578 total deliveries. Its revenues increased 343% to $293 million from a year ago, but losses also widened to $298 million that included one-time changes in the value of preferred shares.

But Tesla remains a market leader in China, where deliveries of new energy vehicles grew a year-on-year 104.5% to reach 160,000 units in October as the pandemic is largely under control and people are back to showrooms. The company delivers 15,000 to 20,000 Model 3s in the country on a monthly basis, estimates Yale Zhang, an analyst at Shanghai-based consultancy AutoForesight.

Auto China 2020
Xpeng Motors’ P7 electric sedan is on display during 2020 Beijing International Automotive … [+] WANG JUN/VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES

He, a serial entrepreneur who was previously the founder of now Alibaba-acquired brower UCWeb, is undaunted by the threat posed by Tesla.

“Starting from next year, be prepared to be beaten out of your mind when it comes to autonomous driving in China,” he wrote in a November post on China’s Twitter-equivalent Sina Weibo, after Elon Musk accused Xpeng of intellectual property theft related to autonomous driving in a chat with a Twitter follower.

In a follow-up statement sent by email, a company spokesperson said “we will also vigorously defend our reputation against any baseless allegations.”

AutoForesight’s Zhang says the bigger fight for Xpeng and other Chinese EV makers would probably come early next year, when Tesla is very likely to lower the price of the Model 3 to around $33,000 in China, and potentially ignite a price war.

“Tesla is going for the Chinese mass market at all cost, ” he says. “The company doesn’t care as much for profit now.”

More On Forbes: EV Share Frenzy Continues, But Only For New Makers, Not Legacy Brands

Xpeng declined to provide details of its strategy for competing with Tesla, instead the company’s spokesman shifted the focus by declaring that ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles are the main competition for EV makers in China, especially as EV penetration in the country is still below 5%.

Haitong International’s Shi says the company could be looking at a range of options including lowering battery costs to launching a new model that is smaller and cheaper than the P7.

“There is the possibility that the company will launch a minimized version of P7 that sells for less than $30,000 next year,” Shi says, adding that He’s strongly worded Weibo response shows the entrepreneur isn’t afraid of going head to head with Tesla in China.

source: forbes

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