China's Qiantu Motor to Manufacture EVs in North America With Domestic Partner

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Every few weeks, it seems there’s another Chinese manufacture promising to wriggle into North America. This week it’s Qiantu Motor, which intends to build the K50 electric sports car with help from California-based EV firm Mullen Technologies. According to a preliminary agreement published on Mullen’s website, the American firm will homologate, assemble, and market the electric sports car in North America in 2020.

Simon Lei, Qiantu’s Head of Product Planning, previously expressed the brand’s intent to sell the model within the United States last April. Naturally, we’re always a little skeptical of these kinds of claims, given China’s track record on the matter and the ongoing trade war.

The K50, which looks like the Asian lovechild of the Acura NSX and Audi R8, comes with an electric motor for each axle — yielding a combined output of of 408 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Qiantu estimates its 0-to-6o time at 4.6 seconds and a maximum range somewhere around 228 miles using the New European Driving Cycle.

That’s not particularly impressive, but it isn’t an abysmal disappointment, either. Mullen has said it will import assembly-ready components from China while also tapping domestic suppliers, resulting in the model reaching consumers at an “unexpectedly affordable” cost. Perhaps if the price is low enough and the build quality high enough, consumers will respond. Still, Automotive News cites the K50’s Chinese starting price at 754,300 yuan ($109,320). That’s far too expensive for it to be a hit in the United States.

Helping to rationalize the price, the model comes with LED headlamps, Brembo brakes, Pirelli tires, mostly aluminum frame, and carbon-fiber body panels. Qiantu said the K50 will also be available with an optional 15.6-inch touchscreen, high-tech instrument panel, and a solar roof.

Another important aspect of the partnership is that it gives Qiantu access to CarHub, a subsidiary of Mullen. The digital platform should give the Chinese brand direct retail access, allowing it to circumvent traditional dealer networks. Considering the K50 is extremely unlikely to become a high-volume model if it comes to North America, that ought to suit it just fine.

“Mullen is thrilled to embark on this journey together with Qiantu to bring sexy and exciting new options to North American consumers,” said Mullen CEO and Chairman David Michery. “The 100 percent electric Qiantu K50 meets exotic automobile criteria without the exotic price tag. I believe that we can grow clean transportation in North America by bringing highly desirable options to market. Mullen Technologies, with its technology, commercial teams and distribution systems in place is geared to accomplish exactly that.”

We shall see.

[Images: Qiantu Motor]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 22 comments
  • RHD RHD on Dec 19, 2018

    Is that front end legal? If so, it's nice to see a design that won't bludgeon a pedestrian and crush their hips, but take them out at the knees instead.

  • TMD748 TMD748 on Dec 19, 2018

    Inb4 CCP-sponsored espionage.

  • Sobro Needs moar Roots.
  • RHD Questions? None, no, not really. Interested in some random Hyundai? No, not at all. Yawn.
  • Formula m Alfa-Romeo had the great idea to unveil my all time favourite car at the world expo in Montreal. Never built or Sold in North America. The called it the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Never even sold in North America.
  • RHD Nice little car. Give it comfortable seats, price it very competitively and leave the Alfa Romeo script on the grille. We need a smaller, cheaper electric car, and this could be just the thing to bring AR back. Heck, rebrand a variant as a Chrysler, so that potential buyers actually have something to look at in the showroom. Give it a nice long warranty. The wheels are great, hopefully the rest of it will follow through.