China distributes slides for electric car start-up Lee Auto in January

A Li Xiang One Hybrid SUV is on display during the 18th Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition at the China Import and Export Fair Complex on November 23, 2020 in China.

Li Xiao | Visual china group | Getty Images

BEIJING – As it happens in 2021, a slide in January delivery puts Chinese automaker Li Auto in third place behind its start-up competitors Nio and Xpeng.

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

Li Auto also announced that it was establishing 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 their peers in Tuesday’s US business, falling 5.7% vs. approximately 4.6% for Xpeng and 2.1% for Nio. Tesla shares rose 3.9%.

Competition increased for high-end electric SUVs in January with the announcement of Tesla, which will soon begin delivery of its China-made Model Y, which is closer to the cars of Nio and Li Auto. Tesla delivered 180,570 electric cars worldwide in the last three months of 2020 alone.

The Le One SUV is the first and only model of Lee Auto so far. According to the Passenger Car Association of China, it was the best-selling high-end electric SUV in 2020 and even made it to the top 10 list for high-end SUVs.

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

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

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

This is less than half of the more than 82,800 vehicles Nio said that it was cumulatively delivered by the end of January. Nio has three SUV models in the market, and plans to start delivery of a sedan next year.