Starting your first innings in India’s automotive sector is not an easy job, especially when you’ve got to go up against seasoned players. However, Great Wall Motors (GWM), China’s largest SUV manufacturer, unveiled its Haval brand of SUVs and Concept H to mark its foray into the Indian market at the AutoExpo at Greater Noida, in February 2020. With this, Great Wall Motor will be the second vehicle manufacturer from China to enter the Indian market after SAIC Motor Corp-owned MG Motor India. Great Wall Motors is a global brand that has become a key player in major markets around the world. But for starters, let’s look at some history about GWM.
Great Wall Motors Company Limited is a Chinese automobile manufacturer headquartered in Baoding, Hebei, China. The company is named after the Great Wall of China and was formed in 1984. It sells passenger cars and trucks under the Great Wall brand and SUVs under the Haval and WEY brands. In India, GWM will carry out its manufacturing and sales operations through the Haval brand.
Initially, GWM manufactured only trucks and it was not until 2010 that they had produced a sedan. The company’s first overseas manufacturing facility was made operational in 2012 with its base in Bahovitsa, Bulgaria, from where, knocked-down kits were exported to other countries such as Iran, Egypt, Russia and many more. Earlier this year, Hebei-based Great Wall Motors announced its decision to acquire the Talegaon-based vehicle manufacturing plant of American vehicle maker General Motors. GWM acquired the facility in 2017, the same year General Motors stopped all its operations in India. Interestingly enough, GWM has some stakes in the American car manufacturer.
GWM already has a strong presence in many international markets. So much so that currently, the brand operates in 60 countries. To cater to this demand, GWM has nine manufacturing facilities and five assembly plants throughout the world. The brand has enough and more experience working in different countries and different markets, allowing it to use all that experience to cater to the Indian market. On top of that, GWM has had a research facility in Bengaluru since 2016.
The automaker plans to roll out its first vehicle by the first quarter of 2021 which would be followed by an electric vehicle and mid-size SUVs by 2022-2023. First of the lot will be a mid-size C segment SUV to rival the MG Hector and Tata Harrier, followed by a premium electric SUV to challenge the MG Motor E-ZS and Hyundai Kona.
“Over the past decade, GWM has invested more than $1.5 billion for research and development of cutting-edge technologies such as new energy, intelligent network connection and autonomous driving, and build exclusive platforms and product lineup for new energy vehicles,” said the company in a press release.
The brand showcased its Haval range of SUVs, the F7X, F7, F5, and H9, at Auto Expo 2020. All of these are production vehicles which are already hot-selling models in many countries across the globe. The engine options and fit-and-finish levels of these SUVs are pretty good and could give the forerunners in multiple SUV segments a run for their money if priced competitively. These cars come loaded with plenty of intelligent features like self-parking assist, remote AC & engine control, traffic jam assistance with autonomous driving, lane-keeping assistance, and more. If introduced here, these would become new and unique features in the Indian market.
Great Wall plans to invest around ₹7,000 Crore in India in a phased manner, covering manufacturing plants, vehicle research and development, production of power batteries and electric drives, vehicle and component manufacturing. Great Wall Motors India director (marketing & sales) Hardeep Brar has stated that the company plans to start manufacturing in India in 2021 and plans to have a portfolio of products across all SUV segments. This clearly emphasizes the fact that the Haval brand will only focus on the SUV segment and it will likely be a top-down approach the company intends to adopt.
Apart from this, the company also showcased the electric mini-hatch GWM R1. In the Chinese market, prices for the R1 start at RMB 59,800 or just over Rs 6 lakh after government subsidies. If launched here, it will be the most cost-effective EV on sale here. The specs are also encouraging, the R1 uses a 35 kWh battery and a claimed range of over 300 kmph. Top speed is limited to 100 kmph.
While the immediate focus is on the Indian market, it is expected that the company will be using the facility here as a base to export. It plans to heavily localise in India, right from engine and gearboxes to electronic components and battery for electric vehicles. It has also invested in a lithium mining company, ensuring a stake in the entire EV value chain.