BMW and GWM en­ter joint ven­ture

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

GER­MANY was last week proud to an­nounce that BMW had signed a joint ven­ture with Great Wall Mo­tors.

If you thought it should be the new­comer Chi­nese car builder who must be proud to work with a 100-year old Euro­pean ve­hi­cle builder, you’d be wrong. It’s all in the num­bers. GWM owns four brands, namely Haval, Great Wall, WEY and Euler. In the 2016-17 fis­cus, the com­pany sold more than one mil­lion ve­hi­cles just in China.

BMW Group also owns four brands — BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce and the BMW Mo­tor­rad mo­tor­bikes — and last year re­ported its best year yet, with 2 088 283 sales (3 362 of which were Rolls-Royces).

BMW sales went down in Amer­ica, re­mained sta­ble in Europe but grew by 15,1% in China, which is cur­rently BMW’s largest mar­ket with 594 388 units sold in 2017.

This is not even a drop in the ocean in China, which now has over 772 mil­lion In­ter­net users, ac­cord­ing to CEO of the South

China Morn­ing Post, Gary Lui. Lui said in a re­cent TED talk this is more peo­ple than the en­tire pop­u­la­tions of the United States, Rus­sia, Ger­many, the United King­dom, France and Canada com­bined.

BMW have their sights on this vast num­ber of up-and-com­ing mid­dle-class buy­ers in a 50-50 joint ven­ture with GWM, called “Spot­light Au­to­mo­tive”.

For Chi­nese buy­ers, the spot­light will cer­tainly fall on value for money, as the premium prices BMW charges for its X-se­ries can­not com­pete with the value of­fer­ing of the Haval H-se­ries of sport util­ity ve­hi­cles.

The same ap­plies in South Africa, where Haval deal­ers sell the H2, H3 and H6, three cars that can com­pete head-on with any brand from Ger­many and what they can­not match in rep­u­ta­tion, they make up for in low prices, high qual­ity fin­ish­ing and ex­cel­lent build qual­ity.

Ty­rone Al­berts, Haval’s na­tional sales man­ager, said in mak­ing the Haval range, GWM steered clear of the Chi­nese de­sign-by-trac­ing pa­per phe­nom­e­non. In­stead, the gi­ant Chi­nese cor­po­ra­tion head­hunted top in­ter­na­tional peo­ple to de­sign ev­ery­thing from the in­te­rior and in­car tech­nol­ogy to the gear­boxes and en­gines. “The amount of money and skills be­ing poured into this brand is sim­ply phe­nom­e­nal,” said Al­berts.

For in­stance, Pierre Le­clercq, pre­vi­ously de­sign chief for BMW’s M di­vi­sion, was re­spon­si­ble for the de­sign of cur­rent Havals, while Ra­mon Gi­nah, pre­vi­ously Alfa Romeo’s chief in­te­rior de­signer, is also on board.

Its Re­search and De­vel­op­ment (R&D) fa­cil­ity in the city of Baod­ing, mean­while, is a ver­i­ta­ble mini-city it­self, with around 10 000 em­ploy­ees, and an in­vest­ment cost of some five bil­lion Chi­nese yuan (around R10 bil­lion). “Yet Haval’s price point re­mains in­cred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive. Since launch pric­ing has stayed static bar on the H1 whose pric­ing was in­creased by a mere R5 000, and that now in­cludes a three-year or 45 000 km ser­vice plan,” says Ty­rone. “We want to show that we are here to build the brand and es­tab­lish Haval as one of the lead­ing SUV name­plates in SA in terms of both vol­ume — and qual­ity,” said Al­berts.

Haval is next im­port­ing the H9, which will chal­lenge Toy­ota Prado driv­ers to change their view on Chi­nese 4x4s.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

Wheels took the Haval H6 over sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres of Wild Coast dirt roads and apart from a slow punc­ture, could get nei­ther squeak nor rat­tles from GWM’s premium brand.

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