Following on from the Five Foreign Brands article, we also need to take a look at Chinese brands that look set to excel in 2013. Chinese manufacturers have undergone a spiritual awakening in the past four years, many have realized that they cannot rely on the Chinese market if they are going to become automotive giants, at worse they will be snapped up by a stagnant state owned auto maker that will try to push them into the planned economy mold and at best they can hope to achieve some minor sales in markets that the big auto manufacturers ignore for one reason or another.
Chang’an have all the hallmarks of a company that are heading in the right direction. The company’s own brand of cars has hit the mark the first in their second generation of cars by using widely sold cars such as the Hyundai Elantra as a benchmark, plus they have realized that foreign help is one of they key elements to gaining access to global markets, Chang’an have set up an R&D center in the UK, USA and have a strong design studio in Beijing that are cracking out cars such as the new Raeton, CX35 SUV and EADO sedan, perhaps the names are not the best sounding but Chang’an are racking up sales in the Chinese market with the last two vehicles
2. Great Wall Auto
We cannot have a list of strong Chinese manufacturers without adding Great Wall to the list. The Baoding based company have solidified their lead as the SUV manufacturer of choice with a string of strong selling models such as the original H3 SUV, and the more recent Haval H6 SUV. The Wingle range of trucks has proven to be popular in China and also in other key markets such as the UK and in Australia, and Russia where there is strong demand for rough and ready trucks that can be fixed at the side of the road if anything goes wrong.Â GreatWall have invested a great deal of money into engine technology, with 1.5T and 2.0T gasonline engines and also 2.0T and 2.5T diesel engines being installed in their products. Later this year Great Wall will expand its range of SUV’s with the introduction of a flagship H7 SUV, a full size SUV that is expected to carry a 2.0T gasoline engine and retail for within 200,000RMB. Who would have thought that the frigid cold lands in Baoding, 200km south of Beijing, would become such an automotive powerhouse?
3. BYD Auto
BYD became one of the most talked about car companies in 2008 when its BYD F3 sedan seemingly came from no where to become China’s best selling vehicle. The F3 fell from fame to infamy relatively quickly when dozens of quality concerns emerged, at that time BYD was living a North Korean like Juche Philosophy, if they could make it in house they would and BYD got to work producing everything from dashboard molds to seats, but being a master at everything was relatively difficult. After a much needed soul searching session, and healthy investments from Warren Buffet, the car company once again began to buy in parts and developed its own range of engine tech and dual clutch products. BYD may have the long term goal of selling electric vehicles, but in the short term gasoline sipping turbo assisted units are the way forward, BYD have already launched their first 1.5T which features direct injection in the BYD Su Rui and a 2.0T is going to launch in the first half of 2013, probably in the S6 SUV.
Geely’s multi brand strategy launch mirrored Chery’s in every way possible, but only one of those strategies has born fruit, Chery is actively planning to kill off its brands whilst Geely’s are thriving. Emgrand was introduced as a mid to high range brand, Englon would sit in the middle as an affordable range and Global Eagle, aka Gleagle, would take to foreign shores. The Emgrand name might be slightly unusual on the ears but its raking in sales in a big way, the compact EC7 sedan and hatchback are regularly selling over 10,000 units per month and the larger EC8 is holding its own as well. In 2013 Geely will add a much needed MPV and SUV to the range, both have been aired several times at the Beijing and Shanghai Auto Shows but haven’t yet made it to production. Geely will also introduce a 1.3T engine to the Englon and Gleagle range in 2013 along with several new models.
5. Guangzhou Auto / Beijing Auto
This is supposed to be a list of just five, but both Guangzhou Auto and Beijing Auto deserve to be mentioned. Guangzhou Auto started its Trumpchi brand with a second hand Alfa 166 platform from Fiat which came as a deal sweetner for the Guangzhou-Fiat joint venture. GAC are putting that platform to good use with the introduction of a sedan and SUV, both of which seem to be holding their own in the sales ranking especially the SUV. In 2013 GAC will launch two new models, including a sub compact vehicle and also more turbo assisted models.
Beijing Auto’s own sub brand, Shen Bao, (the Gentlemen’s Treasures) might have a name based on innuendo but the range seems to be quite solid. The Saab 9-5 and 9-3 architecture that Beijing Auto bought in from Saab in 2010 when Saab were busy cleaning out their IPR cupboard and trying to stay alive was put into good use at Beijing Auto, the forthcoming G70 sedans look decepitvely good. An Audi Q5 SUV is also being made from the same platform, and the much awaited Beijing B40 Wrangler-alike is also set to hit the market. I once asked a Beijing Auto executive just exactly what was taking so long in developing their own range of cars, he told me that Beijing branded cars had to be the best in China, and highly competitively on the world market as they represent the capital of China. From what I’ve seen so far, Beijing Auto seems to have lived upto its own mission statement.