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Weltmeister’s Smart SUV Rolls Off “Record-Breaking” Production Line

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Chinese company Weltmeister has taken an important step on the road to its goal of creating vehicles that “will be able to know you, understand you and think ahead of you”: its first model has rolled off the production line at a purpose-built factory in Wenzhou. The facility went from breaking ground to producing completed vehicles in just 492 days, thought to be a record turnaround time.

It’s an impressive feat for a brand with no prior experience in car manufacturing, even if the Shanghai-based firm is led by former Geely executive Freeman Shen. The electric vehicle start-up was founded at the tail-end of 2015 and announced late last year that we would be seeing their all-electric SUV, entitled the EX5, by the second quarter of this year. The official plan is for the EX5 to go on sale next month, following the Beijing Auto Show.

While some of the details surrounding this first model from Weltmeister (“world champion” in German) remain unclear, the company has been billing it as a “smart vehicle” and ticking off a checklist of innovation buzzwords in the process. In a report last year, industry watch-site EV Obsession noted the EX5’s apparent “intelligent interaction system” and added that:

WM [is] developing a multi-stage development plan for the integration of AI into its car environment. First, fully integrating it into the internet and offering real-time internet services. Second, the ability of the AI to sense the user’s requirements and provide services suitable to the user. (These two are reported to be available in the EX5 SUV.) Third, the ability to communicate with the IoT driving environment. Fourth, full self-driving capability. These abilities don’t have a date or intended model yet.

Appropriately, Weltmeister’s Wenzhou facility – which reportedly boasts features developed together with the likes of Bosch, Siemens, SAP, and Toure, plus a self-driving car test track – includes a fully-automated main production line. Chinese news site Guancha got to take a look around recently and posted some intensely human-less images:

Although full details are yet to be released, the EX5 is being touted as having a battery that will give it a range of 600km, and it certainly seems set to be jam-packed with smart technology. Nevertheless, the EX5’s price is expected to be around 200,000RMB (32,000USD). For comparison, Tesla’s Model X, admittedly a different beast, costs around 835,000RMB (132,000USD) in China – thanks in part to a hefty 25% import tax.

News of Weltmeister’s milestone came just hours before China-backed SF Motors announced that it was launching two electric SUV models in the US. The cars will reportedly be made in China and Indiana, though the move comes amid Tesla owner Elon Musk’s complaints about the aforementioned tariff as well as more general concerns in the States over the nature of Chinese tech companies’ presence in the country.

While Weltmeister looks set for a smooth roll-out at home, if it aims to take its cars overseas in the future, it may find the road is somewhat bumpier.

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Cover image: Weltmeister.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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