Chinese EV maker Li Auto’s L9 SUV runs off road, hits barrier during test drive, could derail sales after news goes viral
- No deaths or injuries were caused during the incident, which took place in Ningbo on Monday, the carmaker said
- An accident ahead of deliveries may deter some interested consumers, analyst says
No deaths or injuries were caused during the incident, which took place in Ningbo, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, on Monday, the carmaker said in a statement on its official Weibo account. A Li Auto employee was driving the L9, the carmaker’s second production model.
News of the incident went viral on Chinese social media on Tuesday and could dent interest in the luxury SUV, which has attracted a huge number of orders since it became available for reservations in late June. The first batch of L9s will be delivered to customers in August.
“Li Auto hit the jackpot after it began taking pre-orders for the L9,” said Tian Maowei, a sales manager at Yiyou Auto Service in Shanghai. “An accident ahead of deliveries may deter some interested consumers from making their purchases.”
Li Auto released a video clip of the incident recorded by the car camera on Wednesday and said in an accompanying statement that the out-of-control test SUV was travelling at a speed of 86 kilometres per hour, exceeding the road’s 60km per hour limit.
The L9, a full-size SUV, is priced at 459,800 yuan (US$67,978) and received 30,000 pre-orders within three days of its launch on June 21, according to Li Auto.
A two-month citywide lockdown between April and May in Shanghai because of Covid-19 cases strained the automobiles supply chain and disrupted EV sales, which surged by 169 per cent last year. But new EV models are expected to accelerate the pace of electrification on mainland Chinese roads. Swiss lender UBS forecast in early 2021 that three out of every five new cars in China will be powered by batteries in 2030.
Earlier this month, telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co. secured 20,000 pre-orders within four hours for its Aito M7 SUV, which starts at 319,800 yuan.
Nio’s ET5 sedan, which is priced from 328,000 yuan and comes with a panoramic and immersive digital cockpit system boasting augmented reality and virtual reality technologies, is expected to hit the market in September.
XPeng will start selling its new model G9, an SUV equipped with a semi-autonomous driving system, in the coming weeks. The carmaker is offering discounts of up to 15,000 yuan to buyers ordering its existing models such as the P7, P5 and G3i to fuel sales growth, according to mainland automotive media outlet Chedongxi.
Tesla, meanwhile, has expanded capacity at its Shanghai factory, whose annual numbers will jump by 30 per cent to more than 1 million units when upgrade works are completed in early August.