Chinese EVs in the US? Stellantis’ CEO is open to the idea if governments block exports

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Just days after Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares divulged the automotive conglomerate was mulling building electric vehicles for joint venture partner Leapmotor in Europe, the always interesting Tavares spoke further, sharing an openness to also assemble the Chinese EVs in North America, most likely the US, if necessary. Here’s the latest.

Following a very public falling out with inherited joint venture partner GAC Group in China, Stellantis found a new suitor specializing in Chinese EVs in Leapmotor in October 2023. The Netherlands-based OEM invested $1.6 billion to own 21% of the Leapmotor while securing exclusive rights to the manufacturing, sale, and export of its EVs everywhere outside the Chinese market.

Last week, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares told Italian media the company was considering the idea of building Leapmotors vehicles at its Mirafiori plant in Turin, Italy, to serve the European market as long as there is a good business case to support the strategy.

Another source close to the matter said Leapmotor EV production in Turin could begin as early as 2026 with a target of 150,000 units produced annually. Meanwhile, European governments are threatening to crack down on Chinese exports entering their home turf, so Tavares has proposed a solution – build the vehicles “inside the bubble.”

According to a new report, North America is also on the table for Stellantis. Could we see the OEM build Chinese EVs for Leapmotor in the US?

Stellantis Leapmotor

Stellantis could build Chinese EVs in US or Europe

During a video conference from New York on Tuesday, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares confirmed with Reuters that the company is considering building EVs for Chinese joint venture partner Leapmotor in Europe, North America, or other markets.

Tavares said there’s no reason to exclude any country that is currently home to a Stellantis manufacturing facility, but Europe and the US are two of its largest markets – hence why they are likely the most probably choice to establish Chinese EV production. Tavares went on:

At one point in time, Western governments may be tempted to block Chinese exports. We have the opportunity to assemble Leapmotor cars inside the bubble. It could be Europe it could be North America.

While Leapmotor production in Europe appeared to be the most likely outcome days ago, the mention of North America now muddies the waters of what route Stellantis might take. That is, if it even goes through with Leapmotor EV builds at all. Tavares shared that Stellantis needs to deliver competitively-priced models to compete with Chinese EV makers, which is more of a nod to Europe as several automakers like NIO, XPeng, BYD, and ZEEKR have already set up shop.

The US is another story since none of those Chinese automakers currently sell passenger EVs in North America yet. This is an exciting development in an ongoing story, especially as many legacy US and European automakers backtrack on their EV strategies, all while Chinese automakers continue to push full speed ahead.

Images: Stellantis

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