If you told me I’d be as much as tempted by a Chinese vehicle just a decade ago, I would have laughed and simply brushed that statement off. As cheap as the Chinese-made cars were, there was just no real quality. As time progressed however, so did the Chinese automotive industry. They’ve made more progress in the last decade or so than Germany, America and Japan have combined. The Chinese automotive offerings these days aren’t just tempting because they’re cheaper than their established equivalents, but because they’re actually viable alternatives. Actually scratch that, because they’re not even alternative. They’re genuine offerings you take into consideration when thinking about purchasing a new vehicle.
[ Photo: Mr.Yu Jun - General Manager, GAC Motor ] It was only a matter of time before China caught up with the rest of the world though. Think about it. They’ve already taken over the electronics segment, with offerings that are both cheaper and better in quality than the equivalent rivals from Europe and America. Are cars really that much different than phones or computers? Sure they’re a lot more complex and building one is more expensive, but with enough time anything is possible. In today’s world the Chinese automakers lack just one thing: brand image.
That’s where GAC comes in. With cars and electronics, marketing is everything. If you don’t have a strong marketing campaign it doesn’t really matter how good your product is, because you’re never going to be able to sell it. Not for a viable profit anyway. Manufacturers like the GAC Group are starting to realize this, and have started developing a lot more into marketing and research.
If you’re still not familiar with the GAC Group, allows me to introduce you to China’s largest automobile maker. Headquarter in Guangzhou, the GAC Group sells commercial vehicles under the Gonow brand, SUVs under Changfeng Motor, and passengers cars with the Trumpchi brand. They even have a dedicated GAC Bus brand which manufactures and sells buses, but we’re more interested in Trumpchi. Although it was originally introduced just seven years ago, in 2010, it’s already gathered a massive following. What was once a domestic-only brand is now looking to expand to the U.S. and Europe. Current plans suggest U.S. shores will see the brand as soon as 2019, though a name change may be required to meet US regulations.
At this point you’re probably wondering why would anyone be interested in a Chinese-manufactured vehicle when they can get something already established from a manufacturer such as BMW or Ford. Well, the cost immediately springs to mind. With GAC, you’re paying for the product itself and not the brand. Because they’re still developing their corporate image, they don’t put a price premium on the badge and the name. Is a BMW really worth 30-50 percent more than the equivalent GAC vehicle if they both offer similar performance/economy? Trumpchi has also started taking a new design direction. A few years ago copying popular designs was all the trend in China.
Chinese manufacturers would take a design they liked and proceed to mimic it onto one of their offerings. Nowhere was this more obvious than Land Wind and their X7, an almost exact Evoque copy. Although Land Rover protested Land Wind argued that the car had nothing to do with its British counterpart. GAC is different though, because they have a unique outlook.
Take the name for instance. Although it’s not as evocative as Ferrari or Pagani, it’s unique, and that’s all that matters. Then there’s the design. Take a look at Trumpchi’s current lineup and you’ll quickly realize they are no copycats. Each one of their offerings is different to its respective rivals, and that’s the way it should be. We move forwards by opposing and challenging one another, not copying the other one’s homework. GAC has had such a massive success in the last couple of years that J.D. Power (Asia Pacific) has ranked it as the number one manufacturer amongst Chinese auto brands for the fifth consecutive year. GAC’s sale figures have been constantly on the rise, reaching a peak 96 percent year-on-year increase. They’ve sold a staggering 376,220 vehicles in the short period of January to September of this year. If that doesn’t speak in volume of a growing company, I honestly don’t know what does.
A big reason of GAC’s success is their brand vision and the brand positioning. They’re constantly evolving, they’re constantly in search of excellence. Take one look at their lineup and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The GA3 is a small four-door sedan that’s as simple as you like offering. Then you have the GA5, a four-door midsize sedan which rivals the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series. The GA6 is a full-on saloon with modern turbocharged engines and even a 7-speed G-DCT Dual Clutch transmission. Let that sink in for a moment. A Chinese manufacturer is offering a DCT in their standard saloon car. Up until a few years ago, not even the Germans were doing that. In fact, Mercedes still uses the dated conventional auto in a lot of their models to date.
With that said, Trumpchi’s most popular and profitable models are still the GS4 and GS8. The former is a five-door compact SUV, and the latter a midsize SUV with seven seats. The GS8 offers 200 horsepower from its frugal 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Still feel like China doesn’t have anything to offer?
If you’re in the market for an EV, Trumpchi has you covered. No, really, there’s still the GA5 REV I haven’t discussed. It’s an EV version of the GA5 with a small 1.0-liter petrol engine and an electric motor. Though it’s not fast, it is incredibly efficient. It seems that China then, really has thought of everything. Will we all be driving Chinese cars in the next decade or so? Unlikely, but possible. The good thing is that this will force other manufacturers to rethink their strategy and start offering better propositions for us, the consumers.