SAIC Motor – parent company of the MG and LDV brands that are flying up the Australian sales charts – doesn’t lack ambition, as embodied by its new flagship electric SUV which the Chinese brand claims offers “the best choice in the world”.
The automotive giant has established a new brand called Zhiji Automobile – co-created by Zhangjiang Hi-Tech and Alibaba Group – with the vehicle here called IM LS7. It joins the existing IM L7 premium sedan in the growing line-up.
Reports out of China suggest the company took 3000 orders in the first hour. There’s little intel at the moment about potential plans for export beyond China, but domestic rivals such as BYD and Nio are rolling out around the globe with similarly high-end fare.
The new brand demonstrates how Chinese companies are no longer content with producing cheap cars, or operating production joint-ventures (JV) with better-known brands – like SAIC’s own deals with Volkswagen and GM in China, which account for millions of sales annually.
Zhiji IM LS7 pre-sale prices range from 350,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan ($A75,400 to $A107,700), with Chinese deliveries to get underway in March.
The performance claims are impressive: Batteries are expected to be either 90kW or 100kWh+, with a maximum range of 660km, power and torque outputs of 425kW and 725Nm, a zero to 100km/h time of 4.5 seconds, and a drag coefficient of 0.268.
SAIC says the IM LS7 uses air springs from Continental, electromagnetic dynamic damping from Bilstein, the choice of Michelin and Bridgestone tyres, and Brembo brakes. It was tuned with help from Williams Advanced Engineering.
In terms of software, there’s a dual laser-radar system with data processed by an ORIN chip enabling automated driving. The interior comprises a breathtaking array of horizontal and portrait screens, and a steering yoke that clearly apes Tesla.
Beyond the IM LS7, Chinese domestic brands are rolling out luxury SUVs at pace, most of which are designed with exports at least partially in mind. Examples include the Nio ES8, BYD’s new Yangwang luxury division, Great Wall Motor’s Tank sub-brand, and the Aiways U6.