EXCLUSIVE-China's Leapmotor to build EVs at Stellantis' Polish plant, sources say

Credit: REUTERS/Leonhard Simon

Adds detail in paragraphs 1,8

March 22 (Reuters) - Leapmotor 9863.HK electric vehicles (EVs) will be built at partner Stellantis' Tychy plant in Poland, two people close to the matter told Reuters on Friday, making it one of the first Chinese automakers to start production in Europe.

Output of Leapmotor's T03 small EV car could start before the end of June, using the semi-knocked down (SKD) technique involving turning partially assembled kits into finished vehicles, one of the people said.

Stellantis STLAM.MI chose the site for its partner as part of a joint venture they agreed last year.

Tychy will ensure low costs for a product designed to be affordable for a broad range of customers, the second source said. Both sources declined to be identified because the details are not public.

A Stellantis spokesperson declined to comment. Leapmotor representatives could not reached for immediate comment.

With a range of 280 kilometres (174 miles), the T03 is already being imported into some European markets, including France, with prices starting at around 20,000 euros ($21,642).

The model offers to help Stellantis boost its low-cost EV offerings and compete with Renault's RENA.PA Dacia Spring and BYD's 002594.SZ Seagull.

Leapmotor told Reuters this month that the joint venture's executive team is in place and that sales of another model, the C10 SUV, the first Leapmotor EV designed specifically for overseas markets, will start soon in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Chinese automakers are bringing a number of lower-cost EV models to Europe, which has spurred a race by legacy European automakers to develop more affordable electric vehicles.

Trade tensions are running high between China and the European Union, which is investigating whether Chinese EV makers benefit from unfair government subsidies.

Chinese manufacturers are also looking to build assembly plants in Europe. BYD has announced it will build a plant in Hungary, while rival Chery Auto is assessing options for a similar investment, including possibly in Italy and Spain.

Stellantis said last year it was buying a 21% stake in Leapmotor in a $1.6 billion deal that would give it a fresh shot at China, the world's biggest car market by sales.

As part of the deal the two carmakers also announced a joint venture, giving Stellantis exclusive rights to build, export and sell Leapmotor products outside China, a first for a legacy Western automaker.

A Chinese regulator this month approved the joint venture, in which Stellantis has a 51% stake.

Media reports had said earlier this year Stellantis was considering its Mirafiori complex in Turin, Italy, as a base for Leapmotor's European production, with a targeted annual output of 150,000 cars.

Located in the south of Poland, Tychy is an historic Fiat facility. The plant makes several Stellantis vehicles, including petrol and hybrid versions of the Fiat 500, the Fiat 600, the Jeep Avenger and the new Alfa Romeo Milano, scheduled to be unveiled next month.

(Reporting by Zhang Yan in Shanghai and Giulio Piovaccari in Milan; writing by Giulio Piovaccari, editing by Gianluca Semeraro, Tomasz Janowski and Jason Neely)

((giulio.piovaccari@thomsonreuters.com))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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