Deliveries slide in January for Chinese electric car start-up Li Auto

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A Li Xiang One hybrid SUV is on display during the 18th Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition at China Import and Export Fair Complex on November 23, 2020 in China.
Li Zhihao | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — As 2021 kicks off, a slide in January deliveries puts Chinese automaker Li Auto in third place behind its start-up competitors Nio and Xpeng.

Nasdaq-listed Li Auto said late Monday, Eastern Time, it delivered 5,379 Li One SUVs in January. That’s down from 6,126 in December and below Nio’s 7,225 and Xpeng’s 6,015 deliveries for January.

Li Auto also announced it is setting up a new research and development center in Shanghai for autonomous driving and other electric vehicle-related technologies.

Shares of Li Auto fell the most among its peers in U.S. trading Tuesday, down 5.7% versus losses of about 4.6% for Xpeng and 2.1% for Nio. Tesla shares rose 3.9%.

Competition for high-end electric SUVs increased in January with Tesla announcing it would soon begin deliveries of its China-made Model Y at a price close to that of cars from Nio and Li Auto. Tesla delivered 180,570 electric cars worldwide in the last three months of 2020 alone.

The Li One SUV is Li Auto’s first and only model so far. It was the best-selling high-end electric SUV in 2020 and even made it into the top 10 list for high-end SUVs overall, along with Nio, according to China’s Passenger Car Association.

Morgan Stanley analysts said the Li One SUV stands out for its fuel tank that can charge the battery and extend the driving range by 620 kilometers (385 miles) to a total of 800 kilometers.

One of Chinese consumers’ biggest concerns about buying an electric car is whether it will run out of battery power too quickly, with no charging station nearby or long charging times.

January’s deliveries of 5,379 Li One SUVs still marked a four-fold increase from the same period a year ago, and cumulative deliveries have surpassed 38,900 since the vehicle’s launch in December 2019, according to Li Auto.

That’s less than half of the over 82,800 vehicles Nio said it had cumulatively delivered as of the end of January. Nio has three SUV models on the market, and plans to begin deliveries of a sedan next year.

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