New Premium Electric Vehicle Brand Zeekr Is Exploring IPO Options in the U.S. or Hong Kong, According to Sources
Electric vehicle brand Zeekr Intelligent Technology Ltd. ("Zeekr"), which is owned by Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group ("Geely"), is mulling plans to launch an IPO in either the U.S. or Hong Kong, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
Zeekr has asked investment banks for proposals, according to people familiar with the situation that spoke with Bloomberg. The company has yet to decide on the size of its IPO, according to the sources that asked not to be named as the plans are still private. In addition, no timeline has been set for a potential U.S. IPO and Zeekr could still opt for another round of funding first, according to Bloomberg.
Geely announced Zeekr in March 2021 as a standalone brand to compete with Tesla, XPeng, NIO Inc. and others in the premium EV category in China. The company is targeting tech-savvy, younger customers more likely to purchase an electric vehicle. This group of buyers are seeking advanced vehicles that serve an extension of their digital lives, with connectivity features and smart technologies such as automated driving.
Zeekr is also backed by Geely's billionaire founder and Chairman Li Shufu and the new EV brand is looking to tap the growing investor appetite for the sector, which helped make Tesla the world's most valuable automaker.
Geely raised $500 million for Zeekr in its first-ever external funding round in March 2021, which valued the company at $9 billion. The funding round was led by Intel Capital with participation from Tesla's battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL), online entertainment group Bilibili Inc. and private equity firm Boyu Capital. Zeekr said its investors would jointly hold a 5.6% stake in the company. The investors also signed long-term investment partnerships with Zeekr.
The first model produced by Zeekr was the "Zeekr 001", a compact, battery powered wagon, also referred to as a "shooting brake" in the auto industry. At first glance, the sleek Zeekr 001 looks like a smaller version of the Porsche Panarmera Sport Turismo.
The Zeekr 001 is built on Geely's Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) EV platform. The SEA is the world's first open-source electric vehicle architecture, according to Geely. The SEA can support the development of models with a wheelbase ranging from 1800mm to 3300mm.
Zeekr has sold roughly 20,000 OO1 EVs since launching it in Oct 2021. The EV maker plans to introduce six additional models within five years, aiming for annual sales of 650,000 units by 2025.
Like Tesla's vehicles, the 001 and future EVs from Zeekr will support software upgrades throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.
In addition to the new premium Zeekr brand, parent company Geely is also the owner of Sweden-based Volvo Cars. Geely purchased Volvo Cars from Ford Motor Co in August 2010 for the bargain price of $1.8 billion, which helped the brand establish itself as a growing automaker in China.
Geely and Volvo Cars also jointly own the electric performance brand Polestar, which is operated by Volvo Cars as a competitor to Tesla.
Zeekr's parent company Geely also holds a 9.7% stake in German automaker Daimler AG.
The EV supplied by Zeekr will be specifically designed for Waymo's autonomous ride hailing service called Waymo One that will compete with Uber and Lyft. Waymo said the multi-passenger Zeekr commercial robotaxi was designed to prioritize the comfort, convenience, and the preferences of Waymo One customers.
Waymo's decision to use a vehicle platfrom from Zeekr will introduce the EV brand to customers in the U.S. for the first time.
Waymo plans to integrate its full stack autonomous driving platform it calls the "Waymo Driver" into a commercial version of an all-electric Zeekr vehicle as part of its OEM collaboration with Zeekr's parent Geely.
Geely was established in 1986 and launched its automotive brand in China in 1997 as a subsidiary of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.
In July, Geely launched its own outdoor lifestyle EV brand in China named "RADAR" which will compete with electric adventure vehicle maker Rivian. Geely says that RADAR is China's first full electric outdoor lifestyle vehicle brand.
The brand will target urban professionals in China that want an electric vehicle to take on weekend adventures such as camping trips. It's strikingly similar to the marketing strategy of Rivian.
Following the announcement of the RADAR brand, the company revealed its first electric adventure vehicle, a pickup named the "RD6". The overall look of the RD6 resembles the Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz pickups. The RD6 will officially launch on Sept 9.
Production and deliveries of the RD6 will begin in the fourth quarter of 2022.
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