Innovative New XPENG X9 — Huge Hit Or Trickle Sales?

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XPeng launched its new X9 luxury minivan this week, and it’s so different from what other EV companies are offering — in China or anywhere — that it intrigues me a great deal. The market is packed with attractive electric sedans, and even more so with electric SUVs and crossovers. The latter is the hot, hot, hot vehicle class in much of the world, while sedans still do great in China as well. But large, relatively expensive minivans, or “multipurpose vehicles” as they are often called in China and Europe?

It’s hard for me to make any guesses. We have to wait to see the XPENG X9’s sales numbers in the months to come. However, it’s hard to find an EV more packed with space, goodies, and supermom vibes than the X9. When it comes to tech and an attractive infotainment setup, no one outdoes XPeng — NIO and Tesla are comparable, and I think it comes down to personal preference to pick one of the three over the others. And the thing is — there are so many options in the sedan, crossover, and SUV categories, but nothing like the X9.

A Luxury Minivan for the 2020s

Here in the US, minivans have gone out of favor compared to large SUVs. You still see some Honda Odysseys and Chrysler Pacificas on streets around town, but they are far more rare than minivans were when I was growing up. But they are still iconic as a representation of the family life. Similarly, the vehicle category’s sales are a bit depressed in China as well, with consumers favoring SUVs more and more. What the X9 does is it implements a smart, luxurious, innovative imprint on the unique vehicle class and potentially revives its prominence (well, in China at least). It’s an interesting attempt to bring minivans, or multipurpose vehicles (MPVs), into a new era. The X9 stands out immediately on the outside as a very different take on the traditional minivan, and the inside offers a modern and spacious 7-seat layout. Will it work?

The price range of the new minivan is RMB 359,800–419,800 ($50,630–$59,070) — and, honestly, it looks like a steal at those prices. Here’s a bit more on the model from its creator, XPeng: “Empowered by the cutting-edge SEPA2.0 architecture, the XPENG X9 redefines the conventional norms of MPV models in the market. With industry-leading innovations in design, intelligence, space, handling and safety, the X9 seamlessly meets the varied needs of every family member, ushering in a new era of automotive excellence. Created as an ultra-smart large 7-seater, the XPENG X9 can ‘transform’ into a spacious 4-seater SUV with just one click, providing a driving experience more comfortable than an MPV and greater flexibility than an SUV.” It’s an interesting package. There’s no comparison. We have to wait to see what this model means to the market in the 2020s.

Here’s more: “The XPENG X9 is designed to meet the needs of both individual and family travel, offering class-leading in-car floor space of 7.7m². Even with seven passengers on board, it can accommodate camping and sports equipment. The third-row seats can be electrically folded with a single click, expanding the boot space to an impressive 2,554L — spacious enough for 29 20″ suitcases.” I mean, here we’re just propping up the traditional appeal of a good minivan, or we could be describing a large SUV. It’s more the packaging and nuances in design and layout that make the X9 so special.

Refrigerators & AC

But there’s more. “Beyond its in-car hot and cold smart refrigerator, 21.4″ family infotainment system display, and zero-gravity reclining sofas, the XPENG X9 also introduces the world’s first wrap-around integrated central AC, providing a quiet and gentle breeze — all of which enable the X9 to cater to every passenger’s needs in the car.” Well, the “hot and cold refrigerator” is certainly an extra feature, and I’d be very curious to experience XPeng’s innovative “wrap-around integrated central AC,” which I imagine feels more natural and comfortable than conventional in-car AC.

Transforming the Driving Experience of a Minivan

This is what might be a clincher for many buyers if you can get them to test drive the X9: “[The] XPENG X9 shatters the stereotype for MPVs offering a poor handling experience. Standard features include an active rear-wheel steering system and an intelligent dual-chamber air suspension system, boasting a class-leading turning radius of 5.4m — even smaller than those of compact SUVs. This exceptional maneuverability allows the XPENG X9 to drive with the agility of a smaller car, automatically adjusting suspension spring stiffness based on road conditions, ensuring the most comfortable driving experience.” It’s true — there are a lot of fluff words and generic claims in there, but I don’t doubt that it feels much better than a traditional minivan and will impress potential buyers who get behind the wheel — especially if they have limited experience with EVs.

The Best Driver-Assist Suite in the World

I continue to believe that XPeng’s driver assist technology (ADAS) is the best in the world. Yes, I think it’s been heavily subsidized by the company and its investors and needs to scale much more to become profitable, but I believe it’s the best in the world nonetheless (or, frankly, because of that). “The XPENG X9, equipped with XPENG’s full-scenario XNGP ADAS and next-generation smart in-car operating system, XOS Tianji, revolutionizes and spearheads intelligent technology in China,” XPeng says, but really, it could replace “in China” with “globally” here. But I guess the point is that the tech is only available in China at the moment.

“XNGP ADAS can handle multiple driving scenarios from starting the car through parking at a destination, regardless of the high-definition (HD) map coverage availability. With XNGP, XPENG has achieved the ultimate form of ADAS before fully autonomous driving is realized.” I agree. And I continue to wonder if XPENG will be the first mass manufacturer of personal vehicles to offer Level 4 autonomous driving technology in family cars. (Note that I’ve had Tesla Full Self Driving (beta) for a few years and don’t think it’s at the same level as XPeng’s self-driving/driver-assist tech.)

New Era of Superfast Charging

As with other matters, XPeng is at the forefront of superfast charging. The X9 will be able to gain 300 km (186 miles) of driving range in 10 minutes. Here’s a little more on the charging and power front: “As a flagship model crafted under SEPA2.0, the XPENG X9 boasts an 800V high-voltage SiC (silicon carbide) platform and 3C battery cells, achieving an impressive maximum range of 702 km CLTC with a comprehensive energy consumption as low as 16.2 kWh per 100 km. Thanks to the 800V SiC platform, a 10-minute charge can add up to 300 km of range. The XPENG’s self-developed 800V XPower powertrain system delivers a maximum power of 370 kW, a peak torque of 640 N·m, accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in only 5.7 seconds, and generates a top speed of up to 200 km/h, providing abundant and continuous power to meet user’s driving needs.”


Last but not least, especially in the minivan class, is safety. XPeng is not slacking off there either. “Forged by the world’s largest mass-produced die-casting machine with 12,000 tons of clamping force, the XPENG X9 adopts the industry’s first front- and rear-integrated aluminum die-casting body structure with an impressive torsional rigidity of 46,000 N·m/deg. Also, the XPENG X9 features a 2,000 MPa safety cage and incorporates 19 ring-shaped safety designs. Its body structure is a fusion of various high-strength steels and lightweight aluminum materials, satisfying the safety standards of China, the US and Europe for rear collisions.” Expect 5-star safety ratings in Europe and the US if the X9 is sold there.

Looking at what the X9 offers, I have to feel like it could be a huge hit. I just wonder about people’s willingness in this generation to buy minivans instead of SUVs. I don’t see a reason for that hesitancy beyond trends and styling, but it is what it is. Can XPeng break through these trends and have a sales hit on its hands with the X9? We’ll see.

All images courtesy of XPeng.

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