This week Leapmotor International, the 51/49 Stellantis-led joint venture completed its binding agreement and said it was preparing for exports to the EU market, expected to begin in Q1 2024.

Earlier this month during its Q1 2024 Shipments and Revenues call, Stellantis’ CFO Natalie Knight hinted that things were moving “quite rapidly” with the Leapmotor JV. 

Leapmotor International will be headed by CEO Tianshu Xin, a former Stellantis China executive.

The vehicles will be sold under the Leapmotor brand, with its two flagship models T03 and C10 set to enter nine European countries this September: France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Greece, Romania

Targeted regions will later expand to India & Asia Pacific (excluding Greater China), Middle East & Africa, and South America.

Addressing the conference were Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares and Leapmotor CEO Jiangming Zhu.

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What about the UK?

While the UK was not mentioned during the conference announcement, Stellantis confirmed that Leapmotor is aiming for UK launch in March 2025 with T03 and C10 models, to be sold through Stellantis retailers.

President Xi Jinping’s visit to France testimony of “good relationship”

Opening his European tour, China’s president Xi Jinping was in France for a two-day state visit last week, which also marked the 60th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations. It followed French president Emmanuel’s Macron’s earlier visit to China in April.

Asked what changes President Xi’s visit meant for the EV industry, Tavares said the visit was “one more testimony of the good relationship we want to build between Europe and China.” He added that “We [Stellantis] do not like fragmentation of the world…[it] will not help solve the issues of humanity.”

Tensions surrounding Chinese vehicles entering the European market has seen the EU Commission open an anti-subsidy investigation into the imports of BEVs from China.

Some Chinese automakers such as Nio, headquartered in Shanghai, now seem to favour Europe-centric messaging, such as its “from Europe, for Europe” tagline at its recent Smart Driving Technology Centre opening outside Berlin, Germany.

Tavares said that Stellantis was a “global company” and that it is promoting fair trade and collaboration. Leapmotor CEO Jiangming Zhu added that in order to further promote Europe around the world, “we must find the right way to do it.”

Stellantis to delegate key decisions to its partner

Questions during the conference surrounding who would be in charge of key decisions within the JV prompted Leapmotor International’s CEO Tianshu Xin to stand up and identify himself to a round of applause.

While Amsterdam-headquartered Stellantis owns a 51% stake in Leapmotor International and invested around €1.5 billion to acquire approximately 21% equity in Leapmotor in October 2023, CEO Carlos Tavares reiterated that the Chinese partner would very much hold the cards.

He said: “Stellantis will delegate decisions in China, so that Leapmotor is not slowed down – we are trying our best [..] to be agile. We [will] run as fast as we can with Leapmotor.”

Chinese OEMs are expanding “aggressively” into Europe, with the likes of BYD and Nio already having a foothold in the market.

Addressing how Leapmotor International would ensure it would not lag behind its competitors, Tavares said: “The speed of deployment would depend on affordability.

“Speed is of the essence – competitors are rushing, and it is important to move quickly.”

Leapmotor’s Zhu said: “For globalisation, we need to work with Stellantis: one plus one will be bigger than two. We have a deep cooperation – this is a win-win scenario.”