Chinese electric car start-up Li Auto expects to sell fewer than Nio

A Li Xiang One hybrid SUV is on display during the 18th Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition on November 23, 2020 in Guangzhou, China.

Li Zhihao | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — Nasdaq-listed Chinese automaker Li Auto forecast deliveries below that of its competitors for the first quarter.

Li Auto said late Thursday it expected to deliver between 10,500 and 11,500 cars in the first quarter of the year, or fewer than 4,000 vehicles a month. Shares fell 9.8% in the New York trading session amid a broader market sell-off. The stock shed another 3.75% in after-hours trade.

Nio, which competes directly with Li Auto in the high-end SUV market, has delivered more than 7,000 units in both December and January. The company is set to share its latest financial report on Monday.

Xpeng delivered 5,700 cars in December and more than 6,000 in January.

Although the start-ups’ figures point to rapid growth, they still pale in comparison with Tesla. Elon Musk’s electric car company delivered nearly half a million vehicles worldwide last year, or an average of more than 41,000 cars a month.

Even with the Lunar New Year holiday that fell in mid-February this year, Li Auto’s weak guidance is concerning, said Tu Le, founder of Beijing-based advisory firm Sino Auto Insights.

He pointed out that versus the other start-ups, the company only has one product, and said to keep up it should deliver at least 5,000 to 7,000 vehicles a month.

Li Auto’s only vehicle, the Li One, is a hybrid electric vehicle that comes with a fuel tank for charging the battery.

Analysts have said the feature makes the Li One attractive for Chinese consumers worried about running out of power without access to a charging station.

Last year, the Li One ranked among the top 10 high-end SUVs sold in China regardless of fuel type, according to the passenger car association. However, the company said deliveries fell to 5,379 units in January, down from 6,126 a month earlier.

The company reported total revenue of 4.15 billion yuan ($635.5 million) for the fourth quarter, up from 2.51 billion yuan in the prior quarter.

Li Auto projects total revenue in the first three months of this year to fall within the performance of the last two quarters, with an expected range of 2.94 billion yuan to 3.22 billion yuan.

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