(Bloomberg) -- The founder of a Chinese startup jostling for a slice of the world’s biggest electric-vehicle market says the race for leadership in the industry has barely started.
While a slew of startups have helped raise the pitch for the environment-friendly vehicles, real competition would emerge only when industry giants such as Daimler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. jump in with their full might, said Lu Qun, chairman and founder of Qiantu Motor and a former Jeep engineer. That would pose an existential threat to the dozens of startups including his own, he said.
“There’s only one source of anxiety that bugs us,” Lu said in an interview in his office on the outskirts of Beijing. “That is whether we could survive when the multinationals really strike with force. But we are not pessimistic. We wouldn’t have started if we don’t believe that we have a chance.”
China’s push for cleaner automobiles with subsidies and other incentives have spawned dozens of EV startups including Lu’s Qiantu Motor, pitting them against the Daimlers and GMs. While the lumbering carmakers can only envy the nimbleness of the small companies, the startups are handicapped by their lack of manufacturing capability, which is necessary to cap costs and match the titans.
Qiantu Motor is set to kick off sales of its 700,000 yuan ($111,000) K50 sportscar in July. The battery-powered car can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometers in 4.6 seconds and can reach a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph). It has a range of 365 kilometers on a single charge.
The company is the first startup to have cleared two industry regulators’ approval to make and sell electric cars in China. It also plans to start sales of K20 compact electric cars in the second half of next year, targeting young consumers buying their very first automobile, and a bigger model by 2020, said Lu, who left Beijing Jeep Corp. in 2003 to start Beijing CH-Auto Technology Co., a car design company.
“Manufacturing a good car is a very easy job for Volkswagen and Toyota as it is kind of default for them,” Lu said. “That is something Chinese companies have been striving to achieve.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.
With assistance from Tian Ying