EXCLUSIVE Stellantis finishing investment into Leapmotor to acquire range extender platform

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Stellantis, an Italian-American car manufacturing group, is on the verge of sealing the investment agreement with Leapmotor, a Chinese EV startup, including licensing their EREV LEAP 3.0 platform, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

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Zhejiang Leapmotor Technology launched the new EV platform in July. It was initially called by Chinese translation “Four Leaf Clover” or LPEE 3.0, but the official English name is LEAP 3.0. It supports both BEV and EREV vehicles.

The company wants to use the LEAP 3.0 architecture for its products and license it to other car makers. “We want Leapmotor to be not only an EV brand but also a supplier of core EV technologies,” Zhu Jiangming, CEO of Leapmotor, said during the launch ceremony.

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Zhu also teased that the company is already in talks with two automakers without further elaborating. Later, it was revealed that one of them is Volkswagen’s China-only brand, Jetta, and the second is Stellantis, Bloomberg reported.

In September, Leapmotor unveiled the first EV based on the LEAP 3.0 platform. It is a C10 mid-size SUV, and the company calls it their first global model. It is typical for Leapmotor to offer their vehicles in two versions, all-electric and with a range extender, and the C10 is not an exception.

The electric range extended vehicle (EREV) is an EV equipped with a small ICE that is not connected to wheels and works only as a power generator for the battery. The leading promoter of this concept is Li Auto, whose lineup consists exclusively of EREVs. Their sales are skyrocketing in 2023, and in September, Li Auto delivered 36,060 vehicles in China, up 212% from the same period last year.

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Stellantis, on the other hand, is struggling in China. In July last year, the automotive giant pulled the Jeep brand out of China and closed its only factory there. The loss-making factory was operated by a joint venture between Fiat Chrysler and GAC and sold only 20,000 vehicles in 2021, about 6% of its capacity.

The Stellantis closed the plant after a failed attempt to take complete control of the JV with GAC. Stellantis blamed it on increased meddling by Chinese politicians in business. “We have been seeing more and more political interference in the world of business in China over the last few years,” the group’s CEO, Carlos Tavares, told Bloomberg in July last year.

“Leapmotor is enjoying they have two applicants and push to sign the deal quickly,” a source familiar with the talks told CarNewsChina. “The Chinese market is over-competitive, and without a significant win, they can quickly become one of the dozens of EV makers that won’t make it,” the insider added and concluded that partnering with a global automaker can be such a win.

Leapmotor sold 15,800 vehicles in September in China, up 43% compared with the same period last year and 11% up from last month.

Leapmotor’s sales in China.

Stellantis and Leapmotor didn’t immediately reply to CarNewsChina’s request for comment on the story, made outside regular office hours.

Global automakers licensing Chinese EV makers E/E architectures is recently becoming pretty popular. In July, Volkswagen acquired 5% of Xpeng and licensed their Edward architecture to build two EVs for the Chinese market. Edward is a platform that underpins the 2022 Xpeng G9. The facelifted version of the G9 SUV launched last month, however, is based on the latest Xpeng platform SEAP 2.0 and the compact SUV G6 launched in June.

Audi announced in July that it teamed with SAIC’s brand IM to license their iO Origin (iO原点) platform and will launch EVs in China based on it rather than their own PPE architecture.

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