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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


South Africa’s next Chinese brand? Leapmotor soon to start exports

Producer of electric and range extending electric vehicles could arrive on local soil soon, though at present, confirmation is still to be made.


Announced earlier this month as being lined-up for export markets, with Africa and by likely extension, South Africa, being named, the likely arrival of the Leapmotor brand will make it no less than 11 Chinese brands present on local soil.

Stellantis truce

Founded nine years ago, the brand not only produces electric vehicles, but also has a range extending EVs where the combustion engine is largely used for charging the battery rather than providing propulsion.

Its line-up comprising five models, the surprise joint venture signing with Stellantis in October last year for a 20% share with a reported €1.5 billion (R29.9-billion), will initially see only two models being availed for exports with more to follow.

ALSO READ: In South Africa soon? Stellantis backed Leapmotor going global

“As consolidation unfolds among the capable electric vehicles start-ups in China, it becomes increasingly apparent that a handful of efficient and agile new generation EV players, like Leapmotor, will come to dominate the mainstream segments in China,” AFP quoted Stellantis CEO, Carlos Tavares, as saying after the joint venture signing last year.

In the statement after confirming export plans under the operating name Leapmotor International BV, Tavares said “leveraging our existing global presence, we will soon be able to offer our customers price competitive and tech-centric electric vehicles that will exceed their expectations”.

Leapmotor founder and CEO Jiangming Zhu added: “leveraging Leapmotor’s cutting-edge technology and products, along with Stellantis’ support in areas such as overseas channels, services and marketing, we hope that users around the world can experience the exceptional driving and riding experience brought by Leapmotor products.”

Models

T03

Of two models penned-in, the T03 takes prominence as it could well become South Africa’s cheapest electric vehicle in the case of the local market receiving sales approval.

Unveiled four years ago, the T03 opens Leapmotor’s product range up and takes styling inspiration from a number of models including the last generation Smart ForFour, Fiat Panda, Mini Cooper and even from some angles, the Suzuki S-Presso.

What to possibly expect from Leapmotor in South Africa
T03 could well become South Africa’s cheapest EV should the brand receive approval for the local market. Picture: Leapmotor

Projected to start from €20 000 (R400 252) in Europe, according to carnewschina.com, and therefore aimed at the electric sibling of the Renault Kwid, the Dacia Spring, the T03 measures 3 620 mm long, 1 652 mm wide and 1 592 mm high while measuring 2 400 mm long on the wheelbase front.

Powered by a choice of three lithium phosphorate battery packs developing 21.6-kWh, 31.9-kWh and 41.3-kWh, outputs vary from 40 kW to 55 kW with the latter producing 80 kW and according to Leapmotor, able to take the T03 from 0-100 km/h in 12 seconds.

What to possibly expect from Leapmotor in South Africa
Despite its size, the T03’s interior is anything but lacking in equipment. Picture: Leapmotor

The claimed top speed is 100 km/h with range varying from 200 km to 403 km.

Offering no less than nine driving modes, specification items consists of a panoramic sunroof, a multi-function steering wheel, an eight-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning.

C10

Leapmotor tipped to be South Africa's next Chinese vehicle brand
C10 will become Leapmotor’s flagship export mode. Picture: Leapmotor China

Introduced last year aimed squarely, the C10 takes-up station as Leapmotor’s flagship model, though not in China where it got displaced by the newer C16 in March this year.

Priced from 135 800 yuan (R345 894) to 168 800 yuan (R429 948), the MPV-styled C10, which Leapmotor bills as a compact SUV, provides seating for five and rides on an electric vehicle optimised platform able to accommodate combustion propulsion in the form of a range extending configuration as mentioned.

Leapmotor tipped to be South Africa's next Chinese vehicle brand
Despite being an MPV, the C10 has been described as an SUV. Picture: Leapmotor China

Measuring 4 739 mm long, 1 900 mm wide and 1 680 mm tall with its wheelbase stretching 2 825 mm, the C10’s range extender consists of a 1.5-litre petrol engine being used solely to charge the rear mounted 170 kW electric motor driven by a 28.4-kWh lithium phosphorate battery pack.

According to Leapmotor, the combined range is 1 190 km, the all-electric distance 210 km and required wait from 30-80% less than 30 minutes.

Leapmotor tipped to be South Africa's next Chinese vehicle brand
Centre of the C10’s interior is the 14.6-inch infotainment system. Picture: Leapmotor China

On the electric side, the C10 offers a choice of two battery options; a 52.9-kWh lithium phosphorate pack and a 69.9-kWh option, both producing 170kW/320Nm, and with respective single charge ranges of 410 km and 530 km.

In China, specification items consist of alloy wheels up to 20-inches, a 14.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Level 3 autonomous driving capability, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and LiDAR.

Confirmation soon?

The commencing of exports kicking-off in Europe in September before roll-out in Asia, Australasia, the Middle East, Africa and South America soon after, official confirmation of the Leapmotor brand for South Africa remains unknown, however, don’t be surprised if an announcement is made before year-end.

Additional information from carnewschina.com and leapmotor.com

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