Newly announced GSe is Geelys first electric crossover

Newly announced GSe is Geely's first electric crossover

Might the Geely group one day become China's number one car maker? Looking at how rapidly it has expanded in recent years, it would be foolish to consider that owner Li Shufu is content with what he already has. The latest series of just-auto's ongoing examination of the world's OEMs now turns to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH) and its many car brands. 

ZGH is now China's top privately-held OEM. SAIC, Dongfeng and FAW are all bigger beasts due to their JVs with Western manufacturers but Geely Group keeps clawing away at them while buying into ever more foreign makes.

The latest purchase, a 9.7 per cent holding in Daimler AG, caused surprise in many quarters. It shouldn't have done: the fact that Li Shufu had been looking at buying some of all of Fiat Chrysler was an open secret throughout 2017.

In the end, Geely's owner walked away from his talks with FCA and went after Daimler. He is on the record as having stated that he hopes that Daimler will be able to work with some of his fully-owned car makers, especially in the devilishly expensive business of vehicle electrification. Meanwhile, Li Shufu's list of automotive brands becomes ever bigger and he also now controls a truck maker: Volvo Group.

This first report will concentrate on a handful of ZGH-owned automotive brands. Others - Volvo Cars, Polestar, Lynk & Co, Lotus Cars and Proton, will follow during July.

Even a casual glance at Geely Auto's vehicle sales numbers for this year shows how big this company is already becoming. By the early 2020s, possibly sooner, Geely and Geely Emgrand models could account for two million deliveries per annum in China and export markets. That's provided of course that the Chinese market suffers no major contraction.

Volume from Volvo, Lynk - 37,005 cars sold already in 2018 - and even Proton may add up to a million or more vehicles per annum. It isn't too great a leap to envisage the Geely group one day approaching the size of Nissan Motor, Honda, FCA and Groupe PSA. From there, it will take some time to challenge GM, TMC or Volkswagen AG for sheer size but it's certainly possible that Geely could get there. Remember where Hyundai Motor once was and what happened after it bought Kia Motors. Or even just consider the progress of Geely over the last five years.

Cars, taxis, trucks, buses and...passenger drones

Li Shufu's raid on Daimler shares was not the only shock for many automotive industry watchers last year: he also signed a deal to take control of a would-be maker of flying cars. Terrafugia, the US-based firm in question, was bought by Geely last November. The terms of the deal had been under discussion for some months. The firm, which is based in Massachusetts, says it aims to begin series production of its first model in 2019. How this affects Daimler's existing investment in rival company Volocopter is not yet clear.

A vertical take off and landing (VTOL) vehicle is due to be launched in 2025, Geely stated in announcing the closing of the takeover. The company was founded in 2006 by a group of ex-MIT graduates. Prototypes of the flying car have been shown multiple times over the course of many years. Some analysts have dismissed the company's ambitions as far-fetched. Li Shufu clearly believes they are not. Audi appears to agree, having first announced a partnership with Airbus and most recently applied for permission to test air taxis in the skies above Ingolstadt.

As noted above, Geely seems especially keen to exploit the Chinese government's various consumer incentives in the area of New Energy Vehicles. To that end, the firm has a joint venture with Xindayang Group. Named Zhi Dou, it manufactures and markets the D2 and D3. These small EVs are proving to be popular with car-sharing schemes. The newer D3 went on sale in certain Chinese cities last November, joining the D2, a similar model. Should this fledging segment of the market start to undergo a strong expansion, Geely will be well placed. At the moment though, Zhi Dou is a very small part of the overall group's footprint in China (a combined 8,051 sold in the year to the end of May according to Geely's own data).

The other division to be looked at, before this report moves on to examine the Geely and Geely Emgrand brands, is LEVC, the London Electric Vehicle Company.

Manganese Bronze Holdings, formerly 20% owned by Geely, went into Administration in October 2012. The company was bought from the administrators in January 2013. At that point, Geely became the major shareholder.

A prototype of the future taxi, the TX5, was revealed on the occasion of a state visit to the UK by Chinese premier Xi Jinping in October 2015. The car had a Volvo-sourced plug-in hybrid powertrain, would be built on a bespoke aluminium platform and was designed in Barcelona by David Ancona, the then LTC stated. As well as a change of name for the company, the car's model name became TX for series production. This takes place in England's West Midlands.

The TX runs for up to 70 miles on the energy from its batteries and these are recharged by a range-extending Geely-Volvo 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine when needed. The electric motor is supplied by Siemens and the 33kWh battery pack by LG Chem. The South Korean Tier 1 also supplies Volvo's plug-in hybrid models.

This series hybrid vehicle will be manufactured at a second plant from 2019: as well as the taxi variant, a van will be built at a factory currently under construction at a greenfield site some three hours' drive south of Shanghai. The site's annual capacity will be 75,000 units. That's three times the volume of the Ansty plant in Coventry.

The first taxi was delivered to a London-based driver in January. This was followed by cars for LHD European markets, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Beijing. LEVC will likely keep building the TX throughout the 2020s and probably won't replace it until around 2032.

Moving on to the Geely brand, it had been thought that this would be phased out, replaced by Geely Emgrand, a wildly successful sub-brand. Recent developments suggest otherwise, as certain models have been released in China with Geely badging.

In May, Geely lost the second place it had held in China for seven months to Toyota. That was due mostly to a surge for the Japanese OEM's Camry and Levin models but Geely was not disgraced. Far from it: sales shot up to 113,834 cars in May, a year-on-year gain of 40 per cent. Over the five months, the gain is 37 per cent and total registrations are in excess of 600,000. That keeps Geely well ahead of Toyota and all other challengers, although the Chinese make is a long way behind the mighty Volkswagen brand (601,176 versus 1,285,618).

The full list of Geely and Geely Emgrand models, including details of the cars' lifecycles, can be found in PLDB (see link at end of this feature). Here below, is a brief description of some of the brands' better selling models:

The Boyue, also known as the Bo Yue, is Geely's most successful vehicle. This 4,520mm long SUV was announced to the media during March 2016. It is built at Chunxiao (Ningbo) and Baoji and also in Belarus. The car's name in Belarus and Russia is Geely Atlas NL3.

A facelifted Bo Yue had its motor show premiere in Beijing in April. There be another update in 2021 and a replacement in 2023. That car should lose the current model's FE architecture and be based on Geely-Volvo-Lynk's CMA or Volvo's SPA.

Two other very successful models are the Emgrand GL and Emgrand GS. The second of the two is a 4.4m long hatchback/SUV mash-up (i.e. a crossover) in the style of the Volvo V40 Cross Country. It is supplemented by a sedan which is closely based upon it, the GL. The latter was revealed to the media in June 2016, going on sale in China three months later. The platform of both is FE (Framework Extendable). The successor models are not due out until 2023 and that will be around three years after a facelift.

The newly announced Geely Emgrand GSe (see image) is a battery electric version of the GS. A PHEV derived from the GL is said to be under development, meanwhile. It reportedly has the code of FE-5HA.

The Vision, also known as the GC7, has been in production for almost seven years but still it sells well. This 4,590mm long four-door sedan was released for sale in December 2011. The successor is likely to use CMA or SPA. It was likely previewed by the Geely Emgrand Concept, a sedan design study which was revealed at April 2015's Shanghai motor show.

As for future vehicles, a 4,706mm long minivan to challenge the Buick GL8 Luxury MPV will appear soon. Such a vehicle was previewed by the MPV, a concept which debuted at Auto Shanghai in April 2017. When it was a division rather than a sub-brand, Emgrand had been set to be given a large minivan by Geely. An original concept, the Emgrand EV8, was first shown in 2009.

There will be the choice of five, six or seven seats and three powertrains, including one PHEV and later, a fully electric one, are due for the Chinese market. The codename is VF11.

SX11, on the other hand, is to be is a 4.3m long SUV. Likely to be badged Geely Emgrand Xingyue, this should be the first model for BMA (B segment Modular Architecture). It is expected to be on sale in China in late 2018. There will also be a plug-in hybrid which has the project code of SX11 P.

One other model due for release this year is the Geely Binrui. Revealed to the media in May, it will be unusual for having no link to the Emgrand sub-brand. A four-door car with a curved rear end, it isn't clear if the Binrui is a sedan or a liftback. Nor is it yet known exactly where the model will be positioned in Geely's model range. The Binrui has had both A06 and SL development codes.

Towards 1.6 million vehicle sales in 2018

The firm's deliveries surged 63 per cent to 1,247,116 Geely and Geely Emgrand vehicles in 2017. At the same time as it announced this fact in January, Geely Automobile Holdings told the media that it hopes to sell 1.58 million vehicles in China during 2018. If attained, that would be a year-on-year gain of 27 per cent.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of

Future product program intelligence

More detail on the past, current and forthcoming models for every division of Groupe PSA can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.

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