TURIN – Chinese electric-vehicle startup Aiways says the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to largely abandon plans to market cars directly to consumers in Europe, and instead will largely rely on traditional distributors and dealers.
Under Aiways' original plan to enter the European and U.S. markets, revealed to Automotive News Europe at the Shanghai auto show in 2019, the U5 midsize SUV was to be marketed through leasing contracts the company would have managed itself, relying on non-automotive partners to deliver vehicles to customers.
"The world changed since the pandemic, and to maintain our goal to enter Europe in 2020, we had to switch in most markets to a traditional distribution model," Alexander Klose, Aiways' executive vice president for overseas operations, said in June in a video interview with ANE.
Aiways is the first Chinese EV startup to sell vehicles in Europe, beginning exports in May 2020. Since then it has sold more than 2,500 units of the U5.
Online sales will remain a priority, Klose said, adding that prices are the same on the automaker's website and at dealer showrooms.
Aiways' first European market was Germany, where about 1,000 U5s have been sold, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Denmark. Sales will start by the end of this year in Italy and Nordic markets such as Finland, Norway and Sweden, Klose said. Spain and Portugal are set to follow in 2022.
Germany is the only market where Aiways will not rely on dealers. Euronics, a consumer economics retail chain, displays, sells and delivers U5 models, including those bought online. (see box, below)