Great Wall sold 1.11 million cars, launched Thai EV business for Asian growth
BANGKOK, NNA - China's leading automobile and SUV producer, Great Wall Motor Co. (GWM), achieved record global sales of 1.11 million units last year despite challenging pandemic conditions across the world.
The accomplishment bolstered by innovative car features was highlighted by Elliot Zhang, President, Great Wall Motor ASEAN and Thailand, in a statement on the company officially launching its Thailand business last week with an announcement on its first two car models for the local market.
In total, the global SUV and pickup truck maker plans to launch a total of nine models, mostly EVs, in the kingdom over the next three years.
With ambitious plans to make inroads into India and Southeast Asia this year, GWM intends to make Thailand the electric vehicle leader of ASEAN.
Zhang said GWM has invested $754 million (22.6 billion baht) to launch its Thai operations. Its 'smart' plant with eco-friendly manufacturing processes in Rayong province aims to churn out 80,000 vehicles yearly. About 60 percent will be for the domestic market while the rest will be exported.
In a teleconference held last week, Zhang said Thailand offers favourable factors conducive to car production such as a good supply chain, manpower and Thailand 4.0 policy for growth with digital transformation.
Last year, the company bought over two General Motors plants as part of its global strategy. One is the Rayong plant, while the other is in India.
One of the first two models to be launched in Thailand is the latest Haval H6, a compact crossover SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) favoured by Thais in a pre-launch survey. The non-electric car will be made at the Rayong plant, which is expected to begin operations by the second quarter of this year.
Popular in China with cumulative sales totalling six million units, the Haval brand sprouted the H6 model which has evolved to include cutting-edge features in its third-generation update last year. They include over-the-air firmware updates, 5G compatibility and automated reversing assistant.
The other model to be introduced in Thailand in the fourth quarter is Great Wall's compact electric car adorably named Good Cat, which comes under its ORA brand. Launched in China last September, the technology-packed car looks modern-retro like a cross between a mini Porsche and VW Beetle.
Also well received by Thai respondents in the survey, the Good Cat will be imported from China, said Narong Sritalayon, managing director of Great Wall Motor Thailand. It plans to launch another two cars from the Haval and Ora lines.
Narong added that the company hopes to collaborate with the public and private enterprises to build battery charging stations throughout the country, apart from launching their own. In line with its commitment to the environment and helped by clean-technology research, the company developed cobalt-free batteries last year.
According to the survey conducted by GWM and local research company NIDA Poll, nearly all the Thai respondents expressed interest in high-tech cars produced in China.
Less than a third or almost 29 percent showed preference for electric vehicles because of environmental concerns, while nearly 27 percent were interested in high-tech, innovative features. Only 16.96 percent were keen on new models, Narong said.
Besides its focus on EVs, its strategy in Thailand will also be driven by feedback from consumers and buyers sharing their user experience, from financial to after-sales services.
Apart from having 12 full-scale production bases, including Rayong, in the world, Great Wall operates five 'knock-down' assembly plants outside China as well as R&D centers in 10 cities across seven countries. Listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the company said its sales have exceeded one million units yearly for four years running.