had planned to launch the Li Mega in December and begin its deliveries in late February.

(Image credit: Li Auto)

Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI) will officially launch the Li Mega MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) on March 1, delaying its launch by several months from its previously planned December and foreshadowing the challenges it faces in entering the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market.

Li Auto now expects to officially launch the Li Mega on March 1, 2024, and begin deliveries in early March, the company said in a statement today.

Li Auto unveiled the Li Mega on November 17, the first day of the Guangzhou auto show, and began accepting reservations.

Li Auto had planned to officially launch the seven-seater in December. Test cars of the Li Mega would be available at Li Auto's showrooms from January, with deliveries starting in late February, the company said at the show.

Li Auto did not announce a pre-sale price range for the Li Mega, saying only that the model's official price will be under RMB 600,000 yuan ($84,510).

"We are confident that the Li Mega will be the family's preferred model priced above RMB 500,000 yuan. It will be the number one seller in that price range, regardless of energy form, regardless of body style," the company has said several times before.

Li Auto's three models currently on sale are the Li L7, Li L8 and Li L9, all of which are extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs), essentially plug-in hybrids.

The Li Mega would be Li Auto's first effort to enter the BEV market, but it seems to be facing setbacks.

If the Li Mega launches in December, there would have been a significant marketing campaign following its unveiling.

However, the model barely got any social media buzz after its debut at the Guangzhou auto show, with 's (NYSE: XPEV) X9 getting a lot of attention instead.

The Xpeng X9 also debuted on November 17 and started taking pre-orders, with a much lower pre-sale starting price of RMB 388,000.

Earlier today, Xpeng announced that the X9 received over 30,000 pre-orders. The model will officially go on sale on January 1, with deliveries starting later in January.

After going head-to-head with the Xpeng X9 in its November 17 debut, Li Auto seems to be deliberately keeping the Li Mega's release pace away from the Xpeng model.

Compared to the Xpeng X9, the Li Mega would start nearly 30 percent more expensive, as Li Auto hinted, but lags behind in terms of core specs.

Xpeng uses large integrated die-casting machines to build the front and rear bodies for the X9, and has a 7,000-ton die-casting machine and a 12,000-ton die-casting machine at its Guangzhou plant.

The die-casting process reduces what would otherwise be multiple parts into one, helping to increase safety, improve manufacturing efficiency, and shrink costs.

The Xpeng X9 also features active rear-wheel steering and a turning diameter of just 10.8 meters, even smaller than Xpeng's P7 sedan.

Xpeng has been focusing its marketing efforts over the past few months on the optimization of interior space due to the one-piece die-casting technology and the flexibility offered by the rear-wheel steering feature.

In contrast, the Li Mega does not feature rear-wheel steering, and Li Auto did not mention whether or not the model will feature one-piece die-cast technology. These were seen on social media as the model's biggest shortcomings.

Several recent fatalities involving Li Auto models have raised concerns about the safety of the company's models, adding to the uncertainty facing the Li Mega.

($1 = RMB 7.0999)

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