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Chinese EV maker Aiways talking to investors for export-only approach

AIWAYS U5 electric car is displayed at company's store in Shanghai

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese electric vehicle maker Aiways is in talks with investors to restart production of its existing models and develop a new, affordable car as it focuses on becoming an export-only brand, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.

Aiways halted production at its Shangrao plant last summer and has been working on test production on its U5 and U6 EV models as talks with investors progress, overseas communications director Bernd Abel told Reuters.

"We need a big investment," he said. "We're confident we can get it."

The company needs funding for operating expenses and some development costs, he added. If the EV maker gets funding from mostly Chinese, and some European investors, Aiways hopes to export between 15,000 and 25,000 cars this year and within a few years hit "six-digit numbers," Abel said.

Founded in 2017, the EV maker's investors include tech giant Tencent, ride-hailing group DiDi and battery maker CATL.

Prior to its current financial struggles, Aiways sold its U5 and U6 models in 16 European markets.

An intensifying price war in China's overcrowded auto sector - home to 82 EV brands - has squeezed automakers' margins and forced weaker players out.

Aiways is among a group of struggling Chinese EV startups include WM Motors and Human Horizons that have suspended operations amid sluggish sales.

The EV maker aims to focus on Europe for now because of its experience in those markets, Aiways' Abel said.

"We're not going to sell in China because the price war is incredible in China," He said. "You can only make losses in China."

As well as the U5 and U6 crossover SUV models, Aiways is working on a more affordable electric car that could start at around 25,000 euros ($27,110), Abel said.

($1 = 0.9222 euros)

(Reporting by Nick Carey, additional reporting by Zoey Zhang in Shanghai; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)