Chinese Tesla rival Xpeng Motors launches sedan with new driverless features as EV race heats up

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TSLAXPEVXpeng Motors launches the P5 sedan at an event in Guangzhou, China on April 14, 2021. The P5 is Xpeng’s third production model and features so-called Lidar technology.Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

GUANGZHOU, China — Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors launched the P5 on Wednesday, a sedan with new self-driving features, as it looks to race ahead in China’s ultra-competitive auto market.

The P5, Xpeng’s third production model and second sedan after the P7, adds another competitor to Tesla’s Model 3 in China’s increasingly crowded field of electric car-makers.

The Chinese firm, a rival to domestic players Nio and Li Auto, said it will release its pricing at the Shanghai Auto Show on Apr. 19.

But in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Xinzhou Wu, vice president in charge of autonomous driving at Xpeng, said the P5 will be priced lower than the P7.

“At this price range with the features we put in the car, I think it will be quite compelling for our customers,” he said.

The P7 starts from 229,900 yuan ($35,192) after subsidies. In comparison, Tesla’s Model 3 in China starts at 249,900 yuan.

Wu said the P5 would roll out to customers in China in the third or fourth quarter of this year. Xpeng has also expanded into Norway, its first international market. Wu said that the company will expand its footprint in northern Europe and the P5 would eventually be launched there. He gave no timelines on when this might happen.

Driverless tech

Xpeng has tried to push the advancement of its self-driving features to differentiate from its competitors.

The P5 is equipped with so-called Lidar, or Light Detection and Ranging technology. Lidar systems send out lasers that bounce back and can measure distance. Those returning beams are processed by an algorithm to create a three dimensional representation of surrounding objects — a key technology for autonomous vehicles to understand their environment.

Xpeng claims that Lidar can help the P5 distinguish pedestrians, cyclists and scooters as well as road works — even at night and under low-light conditions.

On Wednesday, the Chinese vehicle maker also released a new version of XPILOT, its so-called advanced