GM have successfully launched their latest brand and first model in Chengdu. The Baojun brand and the first 630 sedan had its first airing at the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this year, yesterday the 630 officially launched in Chengdu. The Baojun brand was created via a three way tie up between Shanghai Auto Industry Corp (SAIC), Wuling mini vans, and GM. Wuling has been at the forefront of GM’s sales figures in the past few years owing to its popular mini van which gained large sales in 2010 thanks to the Cars to the Countryside Subsidy Program, the three companies have been looking for ways to further auto sales by using GM’s older technology and SAIC-GM’s local design capabilities to develop a new brand especially for rural markets.
By choosing Chengdu as a launch pad for the 630 GM are taking the car direct to the consumers that it wishes to reach – wealthy consumers in tier one and two cities in Eastern China are no longer the major focus, GM has turned its sights on the hundreds of millions of potential consumers in inland cities such as Chengdu. After the Chengdu launch party has finished, GM will be visiting other major inland cities such as Zhengzhou, Xi’an, Jinan on a Baojun roadshow.
The 630 is based on what GM likes to refer to as Mature Technology, which is generally PR speak for older well used tech that is not quite past its sell by date and still highly useable, the platform in question is rumored to be the older Buick Excelle platform that was first designed in GM Korea. The 1.5L engine is also taken from GM’s portfolio,with 81kW on tap and a max torque of 146Nm, the 630 is not going to be breaking any landspeed records but it is going to be better than walking in the rain to the supermarket. Currently the 630 is only available with a 1.5L with a manual gearbox on hand for cog shifting duties, but further down the line GM are planning a 1.8L with an automatic gearbox.
Pricing starts at 62,800rmb for the base model, 66,800 for the mid line model and the top 1.5L model reaches up to 73,800rmb.
So what does the Baojun brand mean for the Chinese market? It means that local Chinese manufacturers are going to have to work doubly hard if they want to stay in business, other manufacturers such as Nissan, Honda and soon to be Mazda are planning or already have their own sub branded vehicles in the market. The fact that foreign joint venture automakers are targeting what were the traditional playgrounds of Chinese manufacturers out in rural China shows that foreign manufacturers are still reacting faster to market conditions than Chinese manufacturers. The odds are now piling up against Chinese manufacturers in their own market, it is time that they moved faster to keep up with the market, or stopped making cars.