Six months ago, a new brand was announced, ZEEKR, along with its first model, the 001. Now, the car is finally being delivered to excited customers. We look into what the team were up to from this first announcement up to the car’s launch.
Just like working for a start-up, working on a new brand within a larger Group can be equally exciting. From defining the brand’s promise, to setting up support infrastructure, obtaining relevant regulatory approvals and working alongside consumers in refining product offerings. In fact, those are some of the tasks the various teams at Zeekr had been tirelessly working on since the 001 was first unveiled.
From brand development…
Zeekr has a curious name – yes, we’re well aware of it. Some even suggested we change it, but why would we do that? The name represents the brand’s targeted fanbase, Generation Z. Zeekr choses to put its users front and centre, emboldening them even in its name to suggest that this is their brand, one which embodies their belief and preference in design and technology. The kr at the end amplifies this voice, a kryptonite to its rivals to suggest this is now the gold standard – an electrified vehicle that does not compromise on its beauty in design.
…to user refinement…
With this brand direction firmly in place, Zeekr’s product development team worked closely with targeted customers to ensure what was delivered would be what was promised. A series of co-creation workshops were held, bringing users together in helping the brand better understand its user needs.
Based on the feedback generated, several improvements were made, such as the inclusion of an accurate weather information notification, which informs drivers of the weather just up ahead, allowing them to divert from a storm or take shelter. Altogether, over 60 updates have been made since its reveal in April, purely derived from the discussions held with users at these workshops.
Zeekr has also been working closely with ECARX, a Geely-invested outfit that develops infotainment systems for most of the brands under Geely. The 001 is said to offer an industry leading system that will integrate many functions unavailable elsewhere. It aims to deliver both entertainment and convenience like no other, parallel to what the car otherwise offers in terms of design and technology.
…final round of testing…
Leading up to its launch, the Zeekr 001 went through many rounds of additional testing in various environments to make sure the car performs well in any condition. With COVID-19 and the complications in cross-border travels, all had to be done domestically within China. Fortunately, China’s vastness provided the Zeekr engineering team with a diverse range of terrains and climates – from the scorching 40°C of the Gobi Desert in the north-west, to the bone-chilling north-east where temperature may drop down to minus 30°C.
…getting safety recognition…
All this testing would still be meaningless if the car was unsafe and failed to obtain top marks from the C-NCAP (China-New Car Assessment Program). Although EVs are not required to run the assessment, the Zeekr safety team insists that the 001 goes through it and is presently waiting for its results. Safety is always the backbone of any successful vehicle, and Zeekr is making sure that it is one their highest priorities.
…setting up a charging network..
In an effort to ensure that all Zeekr vehicles on the road are sufficiently charged, a sub brand called Zeekr Power was launched to form a new network of large charging stations with multiple functions. The first of its stations, built in Hangzhou, will go live once the Zeekr 001 is delivered and offers three categories of charging: extreme charging, super charging and light charging. Zeekr Power plans to build a total of 290 charging stations in China by end of 2021, which will cover more than 10 major cities.
…and finally selling the car
Two months after its unveiling date in April, Zeekr announced that the 001 was sold out for 2021. It became the hottest and most talked about car within the Chinese automotive community. Word of mouth went a long way to help sell the car, but Zeekr’s marketing team also had their hands full with numerous test drives with the media, as well as other user engagement activities.
Going forward, Zeekr will use the direct sales approach to sell its cars, meaning all of its sales and delivery centres will be owned by Zeekr Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd with all sales representatives directly under its payroll. For now, the brand is focusing its sales efforts on China, but there are plans to enter global markets. When that happens, Zeekr will make certain that the cars meet market-specific rules and requirements.
Just as users are thrilled to receive their cars, everyone at Zeekr who has worked on getting the car out is overjoyed in having been part of this journey. Of course, the team faced many challenges along the way, but these are the growing pains that all start-ups like Zeekr have to endure. What matters now is that the car is officially on the road, in all its glory, making every drop of sweat worth it.