Going to the Max
China-based Maxus is pulling out all the stops in making itself a force to be reckoned with in the local automotive industry.
WHILE Maxus is an automotive marque that is still relatively unknown in Malaysia, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) has big plans to grow its selfowned commercial vehicle marque beyond China’s massive market.
To recap, in Malaysia, SAIC Motor has a partnership with the Weststar Group which has been selling Maxus V80 vans for a few years, mainly to government and corporate entities.
In April 2016, Weststar Maxus stepped up its game by launching the China-built G10, a 10-seater premium multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) priced at RM137,888 on-theroad.
The G10, billed as the ultimate people mover, is powered by a 2.0litre petrol turbocharged engine.
According to a Weststar Maxus spokesperson, the Torino-designed G10 has been a hit with sales of over 600 units to date.
This is not really surprising as the G10 is in a niche market segment where it easily stands out with its competitive pricing and generous kit level.
The G10 is presently locally assembled in Klang, and sales are expected to pick up further with the recent launch of a new SE variant priced at RM157,888.
The G10 SE has more premium features such as twin powered sliding doors with anti-squeeze safety function, a twin-panel glass moon roof, leather surfaces and walnut faux wood on the dashboard for a classy look, an enhanced infotainment system with a 15-inch touchscreen mated to a 360-degree surround view camera system, a ceiling-mounted 10.1inch LED screen and LED reading lights for rear occupants.
This year, Weststar Maxus also plans to launch an imported flagship G10 variant priced at around RM180,000 with kit such as rear powered tailgate with kick-activated function, second row Captain seats with massage function and fold-out ottomans, and ZF Sachs-sourced Nivomat self-leveling rear dampers for improved driving comfort and safety.
Weststar is also looking at introducing the Maxus T60 pick up truck, which has a 2.8-litre VGT (Variable Geometry Turbocharger) engine and 6-speed automatic gearbox.
The T60’s 2.8-litre VGT engine outputs 148hp at 3,400rpm and 360Nm of torque at 1,600 to 2,800rpm.
Fuel consumption is rated at 8.1 litre per 100km, and the T60 has a wheelbase of 3,155mm.
Depending on variant, the T60 can be specified with LED lights, Adaptive Front Lighting System, Around View Monitor, Lane Departure Warning, and Driver Fatigue Monitor, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), and six airbags.
As for sales and after-sales support, Weststar Maxus has a main showroom and service centre in Jalan Tun Razak, and 3S centres in Glenmarie, Shah Alam as well as Johor Baru, and sales, service and spare part outlets in Alor Setar to support 14 nationwide dealers.
Another Maxus 3S centre is due to open soon in Prai, Penang.
Expanding beyond China
SAIC Motor Corp Ltd is the leading automaker in China, thanks to its joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors.
Last year, SAIC Motor sold a staggering 6.49 million vehicles.
It should be noted its self-owned auto brands, namely passenger marques Roewe and MG, and commercial vehicle marque Maxus contributed only 5.67 percent of 2016 sales.
However, the group is highly encouraged by growing acceptance among Chinese consumers for its self-owned brands.
The group is also boosting vehicle sales in the Asean region, with joint ventures and partnerships in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
In Thailand, the group has a joint venture with conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group to assemble and distribute MG vehicles.
In Indonesia, a Wuling MPV from a joint venture is due to be launched in the third quarter of 2017.
SAIC Motor Technology Centre in Anting
On a recent media familiarisation trip, jourpaid nalists a visit to SAIC Motor’s Technology Centre in Anting, Shanghai.
The massive site includes facilities for automotive design, prototype tripower-train al-manufacturing and laboratories for alternative energy vehicles such as fuel cell and hybrids.
Journalists were shown simulators for safety systems such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and Forward Collision Warning (FCW).
This was followed by a visit to a huge hangar-like building, where crash tests are done for Roewe, MG and Maxus vehicles before the new models are sent for New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) safety testing.
It was akin to a movie set with a recreation of a typical urban street scene, complete with inflatable replica cars and life-size cardboard cutouts of trees and pedestrians, shoppers, street sweepers and even a policewoman.
Another impressive facility was the thermal wind tunnel, where vehicles are tested under extreme conditions.
Here, temperatures can reach a bone-freezing minus 40 degrees Celsius or even up to a scorching 60 degrees Celsius, and air speeds of up to 300kph.
“We can simulate snow and rain conditions, and test for various humidity levels. We regularly do tests simulating high temperatures in the Middle East market, and extremely cold temperatures in North China,” said a SAIC Motor spokesperson.
Another building houses the group’s test facilities for NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), acoustics, chassis, vehicle insulation, brake and steering systems.
Journalists were shown massive rigs and vibrating test equipment on which dampers and suspension systems are put through extreme durability testing, under a range of operational conditions.
We also visited acoustic control centres designed by IAC Acoustics, a world leader in the field of sound control.
“We do thousands of tests just to obtain the right “slam door” noise, as customers believe this indicates vehicle quality,” said a SAIC Motor technician.
In the pip e c a a ays .