(Yicai Global) April 29 -- Chinese joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile has no timetable to start shipping its popular mini electric hatchback overseas, though it has garnered much interest abroad, according to the company’s executive vice president.
“We have had inquiries from 60 different countries about our Hongguang mini EV,” Mike Devereux told Yicai Global in an interview during Auto Shanghai 2021. “People from Poland, South America, Mexico or other places have asked whether they can import the Hongguang mini EV and be a dealer for SGMW.”
But SGMW’s focus is on China for now, since the joint venture of SAIC Motor, General Motors and Wuling Motors, is having trouble building enough electric vehicles because sales of its small hatchback have exceeded those of Tesla’s Model 3 in the country.
“Just for the Chinese market, we will ramp up our scale, both in battery packs, motors, all the components that we need for electric cars,” Devereux said.
The Hongguang mini electric vehicle was built on SGMW’s global small electric vehicle platform, or GSEV. “Just by nature of the name ‘global,’ you can assume that we intend to be global with our electric cars as well,” he said.
Looking to the future, Devereux added, “I would imagine that we will have some announcement to make about electric cars being exported by SGMW as there is also strong demand for this electric car all over the world.”
At just 2,917 millimeters in length and priced at about USD4,500, the two-door, four-seat mini EV had sales of 72,498 in the first quarter of this year, outpacing the Tesla Model 3.
Devereux said that can be partly attributed to government policies that encourage people to go electric, such as purchase subsidies, free plates in some cities, and free parking. Devereux believes EVs need some government policy and partnership with industry for them to really take off overseas.
Chinese electric auto startups such as Xpeng, Nio and Aiways are already targeting overseas markets.
US-listed Nio had said it will enter the European market in the second half of the year. Xpeng shipped 100 G3 sport utility vehicles to Norway last December. Aiways sent over 1,000 vehicles to Israel and Europe in the first three months of 2021.
Though SGMW, which is based in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has no specific plans to take its electric cars abroad, it has being exporting vehicles for about 10 years, according to Devereux. Despite being less popular than in China, where they had over 20 million customers by 2019, the cars sold under its parents’ brands such as Chevrolet, MG and Baojun have won favor among some buyers.
“The ruling brand in Indonesia is Baojun, MG in India, and then the Chevrolet brand in South America and in the Middle East,” he said. “We decide which brand to use in different markets.”
SGMW managed to deliver 77,376 vehicles to 40 countries last year, turning over CNY34.6 million (USD5.35 million). The Baojun 530 contributed sales of 50,000 units. This year, the JV is expected to deliver 75,000 to 80,000 units, or maybe even as many as 90,000, depending on how quickly global auto markets recover.
“A lot of our successful export markets are in lockdown, particularly in places like South America where the virus has hit very hard,” Devereux pointed out. “China has been lucky that the virus has been very well under control. Export markets will be determined a lot this year by how many countries get control of the coronavirus.”
SGMW has distinctive strategies in different markets. For example, cars sent to the Middle East need very good air conditioning and ventilation, while different tires and suspensions are needed in South America where the roads are gravel. SGMW equips cars shipped to India with diesel engines to cater to the local market.
The JV’s top three overseas markets are Central and South America as well as the Middle East and North Africa, which account for about 75 percent of its overall volume.
‘Made in China’
When quizzed about possible unpleasant noises being made about products made in China, Devereux, who has over 20 years of experience in the Unites States, New Zealand and Australia, thought the ‘Made in China’ label is a good thing.
“All you need to do is walk around this show to see the quality, the technological expertise of local Chinese companies,” he said. “We've been doing this for 10 years now, and people have become used to Chinese products. They know that they are high quality and that they can be trusted.”
Editor: Tom Litting