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China's Geely targets slice of premium electric car market with 'startup' brand Zeekr

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NINGBO, China/BEIJING (Reuters) -Chinese automaker Geely, owner of Volvo Cars, on Thursday launched a high-end electric vehicle (EV) brand named Zeekr, targeting China's growing appetite for premium EVs that has boosted sales for Tesla and Chinese peer Nio.

Parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Geely Automobile said last month they would jointly invest 2 billion yuan ($306 million) in the new venture, seeking to position Zeekr as a startup under Geely group, also known overseas for its 9.7% stake in Germany's Daimler AG.

The price tags for Zeekr cars will be around 300,000 yuan, and Flynn Chen, Zeekr's vice president, said the brand will explore new sales and marketing methods, including allowing customers to subscribe to car-using rights and offering a stake in the company to car buyers.

Zhao Chunlin, general manager of Zeekr's production base in China's eastern city of Ningbo, said the plant, owned by Geely group, will have an annual manufacturing capacity of 300,000 electric vehicles. Zhao said the plant can produce six models on its production line, and can further expand production capabilities.

Vice President Chen said Zeekr will use a direct-sales model to manage pricing and inventory. The brand plans to open more than 100 stores this year.

Geely Automobile's parent group announced a flurry of tie-ups by Geely earlier this year as it pursues a goal of becoming a leading EV manufacturer and engineering service provider.

($1 = 6.5351 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Tony Munroe; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)