Exclusive: Geely plans to turn London black cab maker into powerhouse

COVENTRY, England, Jan 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely (0175.HK) is planning a big investment to transform the maker of London’s iconic black cabs into a high-volume all-electric brand with a range of commercial and passenger vehicles, unit leaders told Reuters.

London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) is also aiming to expand its range of services, which includes cars arranging their own maintenance and recognizing their owner’s interests to help them book activities.

“We need a developed product portfolio. We need to make big investments in terms of technology and infrastructure,” LEVC chief executive Alex Nan said at the taxi maker’s headquarters in Coventry, New York. central England. “Geely will make consistent investments in LEVC as this is a very unique project.”

LEVC builds a hybrid taxi model that starts at around 66,000 pounds ($81,500), which has a battery that provides a range of 64 miles (103 km) and a gas-powered range extender giving it a range total of over 300 miles. The company’s business has been hit hard by the pandemic and it laid off 140 employees in October.

Nan said LEVC and Geely would seek to attract other investors to its zero-emissions portfolio and seek to partner with other automakers to develop new technologies.

The executives said the size of Geely’s investment would be disclosed later. So far, the Chinese group, which took full control of LEVC in 2013, has invested 500 million pounds in it.

“Geely fully supports the new transition strategy set out by LEVC’s board and management team,” Geely said in a statement.

In 2021, Geely launched a £2bn investment in another unit, British niche luxury sports car maker Lotus, to massively expand production of its sports cars and build premium SUVs and sedans. range in Britain and China. Geely is following a similar path in its growth plans for LEVC, executives said.

Britain’s electric vehicle ambitions were shaken last week when startup Britishvolt, which had planned to build a major battery factory in the northeast of England, filed for administration.

“We need to make sure the UK environment as a whole is competitive and has its place on the world stage,” said Chris Allen, chief executive of LEVC.

READY TO ACCELERATE

Geely owns several brands including Volvo (VOLCARb.ST) and – via a joint venture with Volvo – Polestar. Zeekr, another brand of the group, last month filed an initial public offering in the United States.

As such, Geely faces complexity that big electric vehicle makers BYD (002594.SZ) and Tesla (TSLA.O) have avoided.

Allen said LEVC is exploring a range of commercial and passenger car models on a common electric platform. It can rely on other brands in the group that already have EVs to “move quickly and agilely”.

The company already uses an infotainment system and software developed by Volvo and a steering wheel from the Swedish automaker, helping it cut costs, Allen said.

“There’s nothing that we can’t deliver on a very short notice if we needed it, but it’s just a matter of timing,” he said, adding that LEVC could easily have a range. full range of electric vehicles on the road within five years.

“But in two years, will the industry be ready, will the charging infrastructure be there, will the consumer confidence be there?”

LEVC currently has the capacity to build 3,000 taxis a year in a single shift at its Coventry factory. Allen said that could easily be increased to 20,000 and the plant had room to expand. It could also rely on production in China like Lotus did, Allen said. A large car factory produces an average of around 300,000 vehicles per year.

“There’s a tremendous amount of value in our product that has never really been maximized,” Allen said. “It’s about making LEVC a much more globally recognizable brand and expanding our product offering into as many spaces as possible.”

($1 = 0.8095 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey, Additional reporting by Zoey Zhange in Shanghai and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing Editing by Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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