Geely plans to introduce Zeekr EV brand in S. Korea by 2026

SEOUL: Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. plans to introduce its first premium electric vehicle to South Korea as early as 2026, joining a wave of Chinese carmakers hoping to penetrate a market that’s largely still ruled by Hyundai Motor Co. and sister company Kia Corp.

Geely’s upmarket EV brand Zeekr Intelligent Technology Holding Ltd., which went public in the US in May, will open showrooms in Seoul and Gyeonggi, the province surrounding the capital, by the end of next year and start deliveries in the first quarter of 2026, Geely said in an emailed response to questions from Bloomberg News.

The first model to be released in South Korea may be the Zeekr 001, an EV that can travel up to 620km on a single charge, although those plans aren’t final.

Chinese automakers are being lured to South Korea despite a new rule that gives more subsidies for EVs with a higher estimated value of recycled metals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese, disadvantaging carmakers using LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries, which Chinese companies generally do.

But faced with provisional tariffs that Europe is levying on EVs imported from China and tariffs of 100% from the US, Chinese carmakers are looking to other markets for growth.

BYD Co., for example, is preparing to launch its passenger cars in Korea, and electric buses from China already account for around 40% of the total e-buses on the nation’s roads, according to data from Carisyou.

2024-07-05 16_43_04-Window

Geely also isn’t an entirely unfamiliar name in Korea.

In 2022, it bought a 34% stake in Renault’s Korean unit as the two carmakers deepened their cooperation around the development of eco-friendly models.

And the Polestar 4, an electric sedan made by Geely-controlled Volvo AB, will be produced at Renault Korea’s plant in Busan starting in the second half of 2025.

Geely has also signed partnership agreements with Korea’s SK Group for battery development as well as with Posco International Inc. for the sales and servicing of its commercial vehicles in the country.

In Korea, there’s "demand for premium EVs as we can see in the success of Tesla,” Lee Hang-Koo, the head of the Jeonbuk Institute of automobile Convergence Technology, said.

Tesla Inc.’s Model Y is the best-selling foreign vehicle so far this year.

"Chinese EVs have a lot of digitalised functions” that appeal to Korea’s tech-savvy consumers, he added.

Faced with tariffs from Europe and the US, Geely may even consider making EVs in South Korea for export using the Renault plant, Lee said.
Autos Geely