Friday, April 12, 2024

Analysis on Geely’s Layout in Electrification, Connectivity, Intelligence and Sharing

IndustryAnalysis on Geely's Layout in Electrification, Connectivity, Intelligence and Sharing

Geely, one of the leading automotive groups in China, makes comprehensive layout in electrification, connectivity, intelligence and sharing.

Geely boasts more than ten brands. In 2023, it sold a total of about 2.79 million vehicles, a year-on-year increase of 20%. Geely clearly aims to become “Volkswagen Group” in the era of new energy vehicles. 

Volkswagen Group has 10 brands, each of which is not closely related to one another but highly related in the extension and inheritance of internal technologies. In terms of external and internal cooperation, the brands under Volkswagen are very independent and have their own operation and management models. In recent years, Geely has been learning from Volkswagen and pursuing the strategic construction of unified internal underlying technology and independent brands. In this process, Geely builds cars through architectures, hoping to form unified technology architecture. But in the whole management structure, Geely thoroughly manages each business unit in a market-oriented manner.    

As a technical base shared by multiple brands of Geely, the Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) covers full size of vehicles from A-class cars to E-class in the wheelbase range of 1,800mm-3,300mm, and meets all styling needs of sedans, SUVs, MPVs, small urban vehicles, sports cars, pickups and future vehicles for mobility.     

In 2023, Volkswagen Group sold 9.24 million new vehicles, while Geely sold about 2.79 million units. The gap between them is obvious. Geely’s opportunity to catch up with Volkswagen lies in new energy vehicles. To achieve the goal of “becoming Volkswagen Group in the era of new energy vehicles”, Geely will take efforts in the following four aspects: 

First of all, it uses architectures to build cars. By the end of 2023, SEA had empowered 6 brands and 11 production models.
Second, it vertically integrates the industry chain. From technological ecosystem layout, to core technologies of “electric drive, batteries and electric control” and intelligence, and then to intelligent manufacturing and energy replenishment systems, Geely focuses on full-stack independent R&D and vertical integration in the core fields of new energy vehicles to improve economies of scale.

Third, it works on technologies. Geely’s self-developed SEA for high-level intelligent driving targets common intelligent driving scenarios such as highway NZP, urban NZP and intelligent parking, and is mounted on ever more models. In terms of IVI, Geely not only has a self-developed solution based on Qualcomm 8295 computing platform, but also launched Flyme Auto through Meizu IVI system to share its core capabilities with other IVI systems. At present multiple models of Polestar, Lynk & Co and Galaxy have been connected to it. The version 2.0 will be launched this year. 

Fourth, it synergizes brands. The Geely brand is positioned as a high-value popular brand with various power forms, including three main series: Geely China Star, Galaxy, and GEOME. Lynk & Co, a mid-to-high-end brand, features super hybrids. The luxury intelligent BEV brand ZEEKR offers all-electric products.    

Geely sets ambitious goals, but it faces pros and cons, as follows.

Pros 1: Geely independently develops high-compute chips and gets ahead of other major automakers in satellite technology.

At present, only Tesla and Geely have achieved independent R&D and mass production of high-compute chips. ECARX, a subsidiary of Geely, has developed E01 and E02 cockpit chips independently, and Longying No.1 together with SiEngine Technology. These chips have been mass-produced and mounted on vehicles. 

On February 3, Geely conducted its second successful satellite launch in Xichang Satellite Launch Center, and sent eleven satellites into low Earth orbit, finishing the deployment of the second orbital plane of the Geely Future Mobility Constellation. Geely is currently the only Chinese independent automaker that launches satellites.

The Geely Future Mobility Constellation technology allows vehicles to achieve instantaneous “centimeter-level” high-precision positioning and accurate route planning, and then enable applications such as vehicle cloud management, V2X-based intelligent driving and automated parking.  

Pros 2: Geely’s sales in January soared by 110% on a like-on-like basis, surpassing BYD.

Geely sold 213,487 vehicles in January 2024, a year-on-year spurt of 110% and a month-on-month jump of approximately 46%, of which 65,826 units were new energy vehicles, rocketing by 591% from the prior-year period. BYD sold a total of 201,493 vehicles in January, up 33.9% from the same period last year. 

The surging sales of Geely’s brands in January 2024 lay the foundation for Geely to achieve its long-term strategic goals.

Pros 3: Geely has strong capital operation capabilities and its brands have been listed one after another.

Geely has 7 listed companies: Geely Automobile Holdings Limited (0175.HK), Zhejiang Qianjiang Motorcycle Co., Ltd. (000913.SZ), Hanma Technology Group Co., Ltd. (600375.SS), Lifan Technology (Group) Co., Ltd. (601777.SS), ECARX (NASDAQ: ECX), Polestar (NASDAQ: PSNYW), and Volvo (STO: VOLV-B).  

Other brands under Geely are also gearing up for listing. Lotus will go public the US stock market through backdoor listing; ZEEKR has also submitted a prospectus for listing in the US stock market. 

Other brands, including RADAR and Farizon Auto, are also seeking to be listed.

Cons 1: Geely faces difficulties in realizing its 2025 Strategy.

In 2021, Geely set its 2025 strategic goals: to invest RMB150 billion in R&D over five years, build an international R&D system based on the global “5 major R&D centers + 5 major styling centers”, and head toward the intelligent era.

The investment in R&D in five years is RMB150 billion, namely, RMB30 billion per year. In fact, Geely’s R&D investment was RMB6.7 billion in 2022, and is estimated to be RMB12 billion in 2023. Geely’s R&D investment is the same with that of NIO and Li Auto both with a single brand, but much lower than first-tier brands like BYD, Toyota and Volkswagen. 

Geely still needs to do a lot of work to unify the technical base and achieve economies of scale. Geely performs best in electrification technology. The advanced SEA allows Geely to launch new cars and popular models faster than its counterparts. Geely’s models such as ZEEKR and Galaxy are well accepted by the market, with surging sales volume.

However, Geely has not unified its technical bases of cockpit and intelligent driving. Different models are often supported by different suppliers of intelligent driving chips and systems, and cockpit chips and systems. 

The complex cockpit technology sources and intelligent driving technology systems, and the decentralized R&D investments make Geely unable to conduct frequent, continuous functional iterations as emerging carmakers, which leads to the low satisfaction of users with the cockpit and intelligent driving of Geely’s models.

The Flyme Auto solution adopted by Lynk & Co 08 EM-P is praised by users in terms of touch experience, UI aesthetics, interaction details and car-phone interconnect. According to Geely’s latest “technology focus” strategy, the intelligent driving system and cockpit system accepted by consumers will be seen in more models of Geely brands.

Cons 2: Declining profits and fewer profitable brands

Since its establishment, Geely has figured out three multi-brand strategies: First, Geely launched three brands: Free Cruiser, KingKong and Vision from 2004 to 2007. Second, it unveiled Emgrand, GLEAGLE and Englon in 2008. In 2014, Geely returned to the “One Geely” strategy in time.

Third, Geely launched brands such as Emgrand L, Emgrand GS, and Boyue, and gradually formed more than a dozen passenger car brands by way of acquisitions from 2015 to 2017. But the brands that can make profits independently are only Geely and Volvo, and others need more financial support.

The investment in too many brands consumes the funds of Geely and lowers its profitability. From 2018 to 2021, the net income of Geely plunged from RMB12.55 billion to RMB4.847 billion. In the first half of 2023, Geely recorded only RMB1.57 billion in net come.

By the end of the third quarter of 2023, Geely has had the total assets of RMB640.399 billion, and the total liabilities of RMB441.599 billion increasing RMB61 billion over the end of the previous year, with the debt ratio up to  68.96%, a warning figure for the company. In contrast, Geely’s debt ratio was higher than that of Changan Automobile (60.4%), SAIC (63.95%), Great Wall Motor (65.64%) and GAC (40.8%) but lower than BYD’s (77.37%). Therefore, in January 2024, Geely reduced its shares worth nearly USD680 million in Volvo to gain more financial support for the electrified and intelligent transformation.   

In short, Geely has great product R&D and capital operation capabilities. In January 2024, it gained momentum and had the potential to become a global first-tier manufacturer of new energy vehicles. Amid the sluggish economic environment in 2024, only by implementing the strategy of “architecture-based car making, vertical integration, technology focus, and brand synergy” can Geely hope to become the “Volkswagen Group in the era of new energy vehicles.”

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