is preparing to open so-called "central stores" in select Chinese cities, moving away from its current model of opening only experience stores in shopping malls, local media said.

(Image credit: Li Auto)

Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI) is said to be opening larger stores that resemble traditional dealership stores as part of an effort to expand its sales network.

The extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) maker is preparing to open so-called "central stores" in some Chinese cities, moving away from its existing model of opening only experience stores in shopping malls, local auto media outlet Yiche said in a report today.

These larger stores, similar to traditional car dealership stores, would offer a more comprehensive range of services, the report said, citing unnamed industry sources.

Li Auto is seeking proposals from supporters for sites to build such stores in 26 priority cities, including four first-tier cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen -- and smaller cities including Nantong, Xinyang and Yangzhou, according to an image in the report.

Li Auto's requirements for venues are to be located in automotive markets, with luxury brands in around them preferred, and an area of 700-1500 square meters, according to the image.

For Li Auto, its original stores located in shopping malls seem to be inadequate as more models become available.

The company currently sells three models -- the five-seat Li L7, the six-seat Li L8 and the Li L9 -- all of them SUVs. It is expected to launch its first all-electric model, which will be an MPV, by the end of the year.

In terms of its retail store network, Li Auto was continuing to add new retail centers as it launches multiple models, the company's management said in a May 10 analyst call following its first-quarter earnings announcement.

Li Auto is also working quickly on store upgrades, replacing stores that used to be small with larger stores that support multiple models, the company said at the time.

Since the launch of Li L9 last June, Li Auto has optimized a total of nearly 50 existing stores and added more than 50 new stores through location changes and space expansions, the company previously said.

Li Auto opened 16 new retail stores and expanded two stores in May, according to information it announced on June 5.

As of May 31, 2023, Li Auto had 314 retail centers in China, covering 124 cities. It has 319 after-sales repair centers and authorized sheet metal spray centers, covering 222 cities.

Li Auto delivers record 28,277 vehicles in May, surpassing RMB 10 billion in monthly revenue for 1st time