While HiPhi X and HiPhi Z celebrate their market launch in Germany in late summer, China is again two steps ahead. The first volume model, the mid-range SUV HiPhi Y, celebrates its premiere here in mid-July. "Our Y will start in China in the middle of next month and then come to Europe in early 2024," explains Human Horizons CTO Mark Stanton, who was in top management at brands such as Ford and Jaguar Land Rover for more than three decades before joining the Chinese carmaker has worked. In Europe, the luxury league is first – then comes the smaller Y. Tesla says hello. The 5.20 meter long HiPhi X positions itself as a competitor to the Range Rover with spectacular design, counter-opening doors and roof hatches, while the 5.04 meter long Z goes head-to-head against four-door coupes such as the Audi Etron GT and Porsche Taycan.
"Many thought I was crazy when I joined Human Horizons in 2018," recalls Mark Stanton, "back then the company had maybe 50 employees - today it's more than 5,000 and we're still growing." Ding Lei, former CEO of General Motors China founded Human Horizons in 2017 after successful years in the US group and brought a whole series of GM managers such as President Ken Wie to the Chinese premium brand. “At Human Horizons, we strive to constantly innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible. For this new vehicle series, we have been inspired by concepts of space and time and drawn parallels between science, art, human imagination and sensory experience to create something truly special,” says Ding Lei.
The Human Horizons headquarters recently moved from Shanghai to Qing Dao – not least for tax reasons, as those responsible admit. There is also the production facility in Yangcheng, which went into operation almost two years ago. The former Kia factory has been completely rebuilt and, under a new flag, has become a high-tech location where, in a first step, 50,000 vehicles are to be built per year. "There are only the foundation walls left," says Mark Stanton, not without pride, "the local residents were skeptical at first, but now that everything is finished, everyone is enthusiastic. The prices for property in the neighborhood have risen by 30 percent.” The larger production facility is located in Qingdao, where 120,000 vehicles will soon be able to roll off the assembly line each year – and models like the HiPhi Y can drive autonomously to the storage yard immediately after production. Should the demand increase as planned, this can be expanded significantly without any problems. Human Horizons thinks big.
Mark Stanton: "Right from the start, we always saw ourselves as an international brand and not just as a Chinese brand." The Human Horizons group got the money from private investors. Human Horizons goes to great lengths to identify its potential customers precisely - although they have hardly been on the Chinese market for more than a year. 76 percent of all customers come from the premium segment from well-known manufacturers and have already spent the equivalent of 100,000 euros on their vehicles. "50 percent didn't actually want to buy a new car, but were enthusiastic about the design and then bought it spontaneously," explains CTO Mark Stanton, "and most of them are driving an electric car for the first time with their HiPhi."
The newcomer wants to be more than a manufacturer of electric vehicles. As a tech group, projects with networked roads and mobility concepts are pending. After starting in the home market of China, the HiPhi models are now focusing on Europe. The European headquarters are soon to be built in Munich, where the first HiPhi store is currently being staged at the airport – in the former premises of competitor Audi. The opening is planned for the IAA in mid-September at the latest. The second of the four locations that are to be opened in 2023 is Oslo, where work is already being done on new models in a design center in addition to Tokyo. By 2025, at least twelve branch offices are to be set up across Europe. Parallel to this, the expansion in the Middle East is running, where six countries are also to be equipped with a HiPhi store in the coming years. A brand launch in the United States is not planned for the foreseeable future, as Stanton emphasizes, while there are currently 75 showrooms and 33 delivery centers in China. With the start of sales of the new volume model HiPhi Y, the first dealerships are now also being added, which are intended to ensure image and additional sales. The success of the past few months is something to be proud of. Most recently, Human Horizons was number one in the segment of electric premium models with a market share of almost 25 percent - ahead of competitors such as Porsche, BMW, Tesla and Audi.
The flagship of the brand is the HiPhi Z, a four-door electric coupé that will compete against the Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S and Audi Etron from late summer. There are not only crisp shapes and counter-opening doors together with islands of light that actively communicate with the environment for a grand entrance. The interior of the luxurious four-seater is no less impressive than the exterior. Light installations also play a major role here, while most functions are operated via a central screen that can be moved in all directions via a joint, the steering wheel or voice. As with Nio with its Nomi, there is also the so-called HiPhi Bot, a digital assistant with artificial intelligence, which can also be operated by voice and fulfills all wishes on board. The electric comfort seats with glove-soft leather are comfortable, air-conditioned and look great front and rear. However, due to the battery pack in the underbody, the seating position is quite high, which can be particularly annoying for people over 1.85 meters tall. The impressive wheelbase of 3.15 meters ensures ample space, especially in the rear. All functions are operated by voice, on the steering wheel or via the 15-inch touchscreen, which, depending on the address, tilts slightly towards the driver and front passenger - thanks to artificial intelligence. The cargo space is rather manageable with 316 liters behind the electric tailgate; However, it can be expanded to 684 liters by folding the rear seats. With the HiPhi Z, which costs from 105,000 euros, the customer can choose whether he wants to drive it as a four- or five-seater.
There is a choice of rear or all-wheel drive and an impressive battery pack with 120 kWh, which according to the WLTP cycle should cover just over 550 kilometers until the next charging stop. The test car is an all-wheel drive vehicle with 494 kW / 672 hp. The maximum torque of 820 Nm pushes the almost silent electric flounder violently and so the digits just fly by on the 7.9-inch head-up display during the almost silent sprint. Somewhat surprisingly, it ends at just over 205 km/h. "That puts stress on the battery and that's an issue in itself in a country like Germany," explains Mark Stanton. The steering feels a bit callous, especially for a sports coupe that competes against the Etron GT and Taycan. On the other hand, the chassis with electronic dampers and air suspension, which not least benefits from the low center of gravity and the corresponding silhouette, is pleasing. Thanks to all-wheel steering, the digital GT, which is more than five meters long, can also be moved easily in the parking lot
The HiPhi X is a bit more familiar, which is available with either four or six seats and costs a maximum of 123,000 euros fully equipped. If you want to wave graciously to those around you, like Queen Mum once did, you can not only open the doors electrically to make it easier to get in and out, but also fold out two roof hatches in the rear. There are no real technical benefits, but the skylights are spectacular for the grand entrance. The show effect must not be too small for a new player in order to attract attention with small numbers.