Would you buy a six-figure electric sports coupe made in China?
Probably not, which is why the new Qiantu K50 is being built in the USA.
Built, not manufactured.
That means the Qiantu K50 is being assembledand tweaked for American safety standards including headlights, taillights and crash test requirements, plus parts from top-rated suppliers including Pirelli and Bosch – much like clothing, washing machines and such which are assembled here from pieces and parts made elsewhere.
Qiantu Motors is a Chinese start-up with a $290 million plant in Suzhou that can produce 50,000 cars a year, including the K50.
The two-seater, already on sale there, will arrive here in pieces, like a kit car, to be assembled – or built – in a 1.2 million square foot facility under construction in Spokane, Washington.
The US factory is to be completed in time to have vehicles ready for sale and on the road next year.
Qiantu K50 by Mullen
It will be sold as Qiantu K50 by Mullen, which is an unlikely partner for a head-turning vroomer whose exterior looks like the offspring of parents named Audi R8 and Nissan 370Z.
Mullen operates a string of used car dealerships on the West Coast and also owns the automotive website CarHub.
Frank McMahon, Mullen’s chief technology officer, told me the executive team was impressed by the vehicle’s craftsmanship and technology, and that “there’s enough room in this segment for many new brands.”
That segment, of course, is anybody who can afford six figures to be seen driving a hot-looking fast and powerful all-wheel–drive sports car that also happens to be a zero-emission EV and that nobody else in the neighborhood owns.
Chinese or American, the K50 is a head-turner loaded with luxury and high-tech features including a patented water-cooled battery management system.
Mullen claims the 450hp K50 can launch from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, and has an electronically limited top speed of 125mph.
Things I love about the Qiantu K50
Alcantara is everywhere, beyond the seats to the door panels and dashboard.
The huge 15.6 inch entertainment screen is less intimidating than Tesla’s, and it’s voice-activated.
Invisible door handles open with a soft touch and the doors close with a whisper.
There’s enough headroom and legroom for six-foot-four McMahon, and enough visibility for five-foot-nothing me. It’s also easier to get into and out of than a Lamborghini.
I also love the solar roof, which provides the juice for climate controls, saving the batteries for driving.
The solar roof powers a fan to cool the cabin when the vehicle is parked in the sun and heat the windshield to melt the frost on cold or snowy mornings.
That’s nothing new – the solar roof was introduced by the original Fisker Karma and retained by new owners Karma in the Revero.
McMahon was part of the team behind the Fisker Karma, which may have played a role in his new employer’s decision to market the K50.
I also love that the K50 has carbon fiber panels with the color baked in, so there’s no need for dipping the car in a vat of paint, as is the case with conventional manufacturing.
This also lightens the load – literally – saving several hundred pounds, which also helps increase battery range.
That also means there’s no need for an expensive and space-consuming paint shop in the assembly facility.
Mullen hopes it will have better luck with the K50 than it did with the Coda, an affordable but “plain vanilla” EV sedan that was one of the early casualties of US electric start-ups.
How much does the Qiantu K50 cost?
The K50 sells in China for around $105,000, which will be approximately the same in the US price, up to $150,000 for best-equipped versions.
Mullen hopes to sell 2,500 a year after the first limited edition run of 1,000. McMahon teases that, “this is our initial offering. There may be more models soon,” from Qianto and marketed by Mullen, even branded as Mullen. And Mullen will be expanding its footprint to the East Coast.
So you have to be wondering about the name.
Qiantu is Mandarin for the “road ahead”. It’s pronounced she-ANN-two. But I can’t tell you what K50 means.
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