How long does it take to set up a car manufacturer? Just five years it seems, if you are Aiways, one of the youngest of the ever-expanding list of Chinese brands setting their sights on UK sales.
This is a brand that no UK buyer is likely to have heard of, partly because despite having sold cars in Europe for a couple of years, it’s not planning to put its first product on British roads until late 2023. But it’s also a maker to take note of, particularly the fact that like Chinese rival BYD, Aiways makes its own batteries, and to a patent design.
The company name might raise some eyebrows too, with all the adverse publicity circulating about AI at present, but this is nothing to do with Artificial Intelligence. In Chinese, ‘Ai’ means ‘love’, and the brand’s name is supposed to signify that ‘love is on the way’…
So who or what is Aiways?
Two entrepreneurs, one of them formerly a sales head of Volvo cars in China, founded Aiways in China in 2017. And they did not hang about – this manufacturer has very firm ambitions of joining the global set by “making electric mobility accessible”. In the five years since launch Aiways has built a production plant that can now turn out 300,000 vehicles a year, a research and development centre and a separate factory which produces its own bespoke-design batteries.
Aiways made its European debut in 2019 at the Geneva motor show ahead of expansion into Europe – the company has made one attempt already to launch in the UK, but the Covid pandemic forced it to reset and go again.
When will Aiways launch in the UK?
It’s supposed to happen before the end of 2023, though details of exactly when and how are currently not being released. Given that we’re rapidly running out of days until the end of the year, it’s likely to be 2024 before you see any Aiways cars on UK roads.
Aiways already sells cars in 14 European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, as well as Israel and its home market of China. UK sales won’t be far away – some leasing providers in the British market are already adding the Aiways U5 SUV to their lists.
What models does Aiways have and what else is coming?
The Aiways launch model, and the one leading its expansion into the UK, is a compact crossover simply called the U5 – no quirky model names name-checking disco-loving felines or sea creatures from this brand.
First seen in Europe at the 2019 Geneva motor show, the U5 is powered by a 63kWh battery and offers a range of around 250 miles. Aiways claims that the car is a clean-sheet design, reflecting nothing that has gone before, and the few European testers who have tried it have been impressed by the amount of interior space, particularly legroom. That’s especially for front-seat passengers – Aiways doesn’t feel the need to include a glovebox though a case that clips into the gap in the fascia is on the options list. Generally the U5 has been compared to crossovers produced by fellow Chinese brand MG.
Also coming is a sharper-styled more coupe-like SUV called the – you guessed it, U6. This has a rather more fashion-led interior design and has attracted some initial praise from reviewers.
Where can I try a Aiways car?
We don’t know yet, because Aiways hasn’t given details of how it intends to sell its cars in the UK market beyond its sales boss suggesting the brand will work “with an established importer”.
If this happens, it will be a somewhat more normal way of doing things compared to Germany where the brand has chosen to have its cars sold by Euronics, the electronics and white goods retailer – fancy going out to buy a washing machine and a new car from the same shop?
What’s particularly significant about this company?
Aiways is one of very few EV manufacturers that makes its own batteries, and this is another brand with its own patent design of battery pack. The packs consist of 24 high-density cells in a sandwich arrangement, separating the wet and dry-cell parts of each battery. This is claimed to be a much safer design, minimising the likelihood of coolant leakage and a resultant fire.
Predicting how well Aiways will do in an increasingly congested UK market is almost impossible as there are so many questions still to be answered about this precocious youngster of a brand. But it is clear that Aiways is not ‘just another Chinese brand’, its cars displaying novel elements that are also practical, such as the way interior space is freed up (who really keeps anything useful in a glovebox?).
The brand scores on technology too, particularly with its patent in-house battery pack which will also help keep customer delivery times short. Aiways is definitely a manufacturer to watch.
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