China’s Qiantu Motor to Manufacture EVs in North America With Domestic Partner

Every few weeks, it seems there’s another Chinese manufacture promising to wriggle into North America. This week it’s Qiantu Motor, which intends to build the K50 electric sports car with help from California-based EV firm Mullen Technologies. According to a preliminary agreement published on Mullen’s website, the American firm will homologate, assemble, and market the electric sports car in North America in 2020.

Simon Lei, Qiantu’s Head of Product Planning, previously expressed the brand’s intent to sell the model within the United States last April. Naturally, we’re always a little skeptical of these kinds of claims, given China’s track record on the matter and the ongoing trade war. 

The K50, which looks like the Asian lovechild of the Acura NSX and Audi R8, comes with an electric motor for each axle — yielding a combined output of of 408 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Qiantu estimates its 0-to-6o time at 4.6 seconds and a maximum range somewhere around 228 miles using the New European Driving Cycle.

That’s not particularly impressive, but it isn’t an abysmal disappointment, either. Mullen has said it will import assembly-ready components from China while also tapping domestic suppliers, resulting in the model reaching consumers at an “unexpectedly affordable” cost. Perhaps if the price is low enough and the build quality high enough, consumers will respond. Still, Automotive News cites the K50’s Chinese starting price at 754,300 yuan ($109,320). That’s far too expensive for it to be a hit in the United States.

Helping to rationalize the price, the model comes with LED headlamps, Brembo brakes, Pirelli tires, mostly aluminum frame, and carbon-fiber body panels. Qiantu said the K50 will also be available with an optional 15.6-inch touchscreen, high-tech instrument panel, and a solar roof.

Another important aspect of the partnership is that it gives Qiantu access to CarHub, a subsidiary of Mullen. The digital platform should give the Chinese brand direct retail access, allowing it to circumvent traditional dealer networks. Considering the K50 is extremely unlikely to become a high-volume model if it comes to North America, that ought to suit it just fine.

“Mullen is thrilled to embark on this journey together with Qiantu to bring sexy and exciting new options to North American consumers,” said Mullen CEO and Chairman David Michery. “The 100 percent electric Qiantu K50 meets exotic automobile criteria without the exotic price tag. I believe that we can grow clean transportation in North America by bringing highly desirable options to market. Mullen Technologies, with its technology, commercial teams and distribution systems in place is geared to accomplish exactly that.”

We shall see.

[Images: Qiantu Motor]

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