The boss of China's top-selling SUV manufacturer, Haval, believes the brand can also overtake the likes of Toyota, Nissan and Jeep to become the biggest SUV seller in Australia.
Speaking with Australian journalists at the 2015 Shanghai motor show, general manager of Haval’s parent company, Great Wall Motors, Wang Fengying, said claiming the title of Australia’s most popular SUV brand was the ambition of the brand, which will enter our market in June with its first two models.
“Of course [being number one] is our long-term aim,” Wang started.
“But [we] know that this takes time. Haval is the number one SUV in China now and we have that target [in Australia]. We have the aim, and we have the confidence that in the future … it can grow up to be the number one.”
Globally in 2014, Great Wall Motors (including the Haval sub-division) sold 519,000 SUVs. In China, it was the top SUV seller last year, while the mid-sized Haval H6 was the most popular SUV in the country.
In the first three months of this year, Haval sales increased 99 per cent to 162,200. March sales were at record levels, and the H6 continues to lead the Chinese SUV market, while the smaller H2 was ranked in third position.
While on the same page as head office on the long-term vision of market domination, Haval Motors Australia chief marketing officer Tim Smith knows the Chinese upstart will have to slowly work its way up from the bottom.
“I think the opportunity for Haval is pretty exciting,” Smith said.
“I think it’s certainly got a place. I think Haval has the opportunity to steal some share from some of the volume players.
“I’m not suggesting that we’re going to conquer Land Rover (10,053 sales in 2014) or … Jeep very quickly, but given time I think we’ve got a really compelling product and I think in Australia we just need to get people to consider us and let the product do the talking.”
Haval’s initial line-up will include the compact H2 crossover – a rival for the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, which is on track for more than 12,000 sales this year – and the rugged H9 seven-seater – a challenger for the Toyota Prado, which last year notched up more than 16,000 sales.
Joining them in July is the large H8 five-seat soft-roader, which will compete in the same segment as the Jeep Grand Cherokee (16,582 sales in 2014), Toyota Kluger (11,484) and Holden Captiva 7 (10,159), while the H6 Coupe will arrive early next year with its sights set on the market-leading Mazda CX-5 (21,571) and Toyota RAV4 (18,160).
Describing itself as a “premium SUV brand” offering “affordable luxury”, Haval prices are set to sit only slightly below those of their established, mainstream rivals, with the H2 starting in the low-$20,000, the H6 Coupe roughly between $27,000 and $35,000, the H8 from the low-$40,000 and the H9 from about $45,000 (all before on-road costs).
Smith says he hopes to launch with some driveaway price deals on certain variants as an introductory offer, but insists Haval won’t follow the path of most developing brands in advertising all its models at driveaway prices.
Before getting carried away with ambitious sales goals, Smith says the company needs to focus on brand development in Australia, where it’s currently a largely unknown entity without a presence, and will have to overcome the ‘cheap and nasty’ reputation of many existing Chinese brands in our market.
“Brand development is very, very important, if not the most important thing for us,” he said.
“From our point of view it’s about the detail, getting the one per centers right with the brand, everything from choosing the right dealers, getting the facilities right, having the right promotion to the right product, having an integrated above-the-line and below-the-line launch strategy, getting out there and making sure we tell as many customers as we can, align that to our distribution… I think touch and feel is pretty important as well and that’s what we’ll be doing as well.”
Smith said Haval was focusing on establishing a “really strong boutique” dealer network to sell its cars, insisting that “dealer numbers aren’t as important as some of the other KPIs”.
“We’re looking at about three or four different models, but I’d like to think we could get somewhere between 10 and 20 [dealers this year]. We’ve got lots of activity going on with dealers right now. We’re advanced in discussions with several dealers.”
Along with launching four new vehicles inside its first seven to nine months in the market, Smith said Haval planned to be active and constantly evolving in Australia, hoping to announce a new or updated vehicle or technology every two to three months.
Launching initially with a range of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, Smith promised work was underway to introduce V6s, diesels and even hybrids to the local line-up in the short term.