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Zeekr’s UK launch: The next Chinese electric car brand you've never heard of

Zeekr is yet another Chinese car brand that has confirmed designs on the UK market. The CEO tells us why it has a better chance than most of making an impact

Zeekr X 2023

Zeekr is all set to join the growing influx of electric car brands heading from China to the UK car market. The brand might not be familiar to many motorists on these shores but the portfolio of its owner almost certainly is. Geely is the automotive giant behind Volvo, Polestar, Smart and Lotus, and if Zeekr has its way, it’ll be joining the ranks of these UK automotive household names within two to three years.

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Zeekr launched as recently as 2021 but its rise has been something beyond meteoric. With three model launches and 150,000 domestic car sales already under its belt, the brand is in the process of expanding into markets including Latin America, the Middle East and Europe’s left-hand drive heartlands. The Zeekr X and the Zeekr 001 are now on sale in Sweden and the Netherlands, with expansion into Germany, Norway and other countries imminent. 

As for Zeekr’s arrival in the UK, the brand’s CEO, Spiros Fotinos certainly doesn’t see the dramatic expansion faltering at the Channel. “We are looking at right-hand drive but it’s not a strategy just for the UK, it is for the right-hand drive world, which is very interesting,” he told Auto Express. The CEO went on to confirm the same ‘two- to three-year’ time frame for a UK launch already indicated by other sources within the company.

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The Zeekr models in the frame for the UK are the same cars the brand has recently launched into Europe’s left-hand drive territories, the Zeekr 001 - a roomy executive shooting brake estate, and the Zeekr X - a small SUV. Both cars are built on the same Geely SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture) platform as the Volvo EX30, the Smart #1 and the Smart #3, with the Zeekr models engineered and designed in Europe at the firm’s facilities in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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The cars are positioned as more affordable alternatives to established models from premium European and Japanese brands with extensive, high-tech equipment lists including plenty of novelty technology features.

The Zeekr 001 has already spawned the 001 FR performance model. With a quad-motor electric powertrain developing just under 1,250bhp and 0-62mph taking a fraction over 2 seconds, it’s being billed by Zeekr as the ‘world’s fastest mass produced electric car’. As halo models go, it’s a clear signal of intent.

The mainstream products might be similar, with the Zeekr X positioned to go head-to-head against the Smart #1 in the small SUV class, using the same platform and powertrains. But Fotinos refutes any suggestion of Zeekr piggybacking on the UK dealer networks of its Geely stablemates. “How would that work?” he asks. “I say, you look after my customers as well as Volvo and Polestar? We need our own customer experience to build our brand.”

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The company has espoused its ‘one stop shop’ direct sales model where its own sites offer full dealer facilities straight to customers, from test drives and finance to charging, servicing and repairs. “When you sell an ICE [internal combustion engine] car, the relationship is fundamentally between customer and dealer,” explains Fotinos. “When you sell a connected car, the relationship is direct between you and me [customer and manufacturer] because you create an account with me.”

With over-the-air updates, an impressive five-year/100,000-mile warranty that’s extendable up to 10 years with a Zeekr service plan, an eight-year battery warranty, access to a Europe-wide charging network and a feature-packed subscription-based app, Zeekr has a clear strategy to build long-term relationships with customers.

The brand’s dramatic growth and ambitious expansion plans would appear to be proof that this business model works, but Fotinos also credits the structure within the Geely group that delivers healthy competition, product innovation and individual brand identities. 

“Geely’s brands are all listed companies working for their shareholders. Geely produces the platform, the technology, and makes it available. The brands find their solution.”

Where other automotive groups are listed as a single entity, shareholders trusting the owners to manage internal competition, technology allocation and market positioning between brands, the Geely model may afford more freedom for individual marques to find their own place. Whatever that means for the likes of Volvo, Polestar and Smart when Zeekr lands in the UK, we won’t need to wait too long to find out.

Click here for our list of the best electric cars on sale in the UK right now...

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Head of digital content

Steve looks after the Auto Express website; planning new content, growing online traffic and managing the web team. He’s been a motoring journalist, road tester and editor for over 20 years, contributing to titles including MSN Cars, Auto Trader, The Scotsman and The Wall Street Journal.

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