China’s Xpeng, at first glance, looks to be copying Tesla’s business model as it expands beyond EV-friendly Norway to additional European markets starting this year with the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. But there are crucial differences, some made in response to Tesla’s mistakes.
“Tesla is a good example to use, a big brother to look up to to learn from the advantages and the disadvantages,” Isaac Yeo, managing director of Xpeng in the Netherlands, told Automotive News Europe.
First, here are the similarities with Tesla.
- The P5 electric midsize sedan that Xpeng will launch as part of its expansion in Europe is a direct rival to the Tesla Model 3.
- The P7 large sedan is a rival to the Tesla Model S, with a dash of Tesla’s Model X SUV in the form of the top-spec P7 Wing model sporting scissor doors.
- Initially, Xpeng launched in Norway in 2020 with the G3 compact SUV, but the new thrust is more upmarket -- in line with Tesla.
Xpeng, formed in 2014, has borrowed from Tesla’s business model in other ways:
- All sales are direct to consumers.
- The selling point of the cars is their high-tech digital intelligence.
- Xpeng runs its own operating system for the infotainment with no room for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
One key difference is that Xpeng decided not to install its own network of chargers in Europe, despite operating 954 stations in China, including 774 superchargers.
“We thought about setting up superchargers, but it wasn’t really cost-effective. We would rather spend more on products,” Yeo said.
Xpeng’s decision also runs counter to Chinese rival Nio, which has pledged to build a network of battery-swap stations, starting in Norway.
Xpeng instead has chosen to launch in European countries with good fast-charging networks, such as the Netherlands, which is also the company’s European base.
“It’s a charging paradise here,” Piotr Chmielewski, Xpeng’s regional head of charging, said.
Xpeng’s current lineup isn’t that competitive in terms of charging speed, but the new G9 large SUV due in the third quarter this year in China and coming later to Europe will “charge faster than anything in the market,” Xpeng claims, partly because of its 800-volt electrical system.