Haval is weighing its future SUV plans in Australia, as it prepares for a new wave of right-hand drive product arriving from China in 2021.
Exactly which remains to be seen, as the company works out an approach that’ll help it cut through in Australia’s overcrowded SUV market.
Speaking with media at Haval’s factory in Baoding, the company’s chief operating officer in Australia, Hidesuke Takasue, said it’s time for China’s largest SUV manufacturer to turn its focus outwards.
“The time is changing,” the ex-Mazda executive told a boardroom full of journalists and dealers.
“In the past, Great Wall had a huge growing chance in the domestic market, so the Great Wall brand focused on the domestic market,” he explained.
“Now, the situation has totally changed. Last year was the first year that the Chinese industry dropped versus the previous year. The company is seriously seeking to develop the outside-China business.”
Right-hand drive production of the latest, greatest SUV models will kick off in 2021.
Based on current product, the strongest contender for Australia is the F7. It’s pitched at the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson, but offers comfortably more interior space than both, especially for those sitting in the rear.
Measuring up at 4620mm long, 1846mm wide and 1690mm tall, it’s also larger than the Koreans in every dimension. In its home market, pricing sits around $35k for a high-grade, all-wheel drive car.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 147kW, mated to a seven-speed wet-clutch DCT. It’s impressively presented, both inside and out, but the highlight is undoubtedly the modern cabin design.
With a fully-digital driver display and large touchscreen integrated neatly into the dash, along with plush leather seats and a neatly laid-out transmission tunnel, it represents a huge step forward from the current Haval product Down Under.
The car potentially bound for Australia will be a newer model again, with similarities to the one pictured here. It won’t just be a mid-life refresh, though – it’s been described by a Haval spokesperson as “more than a facelift”.
Forget about traditional eight-year model cycles with a mid-life nip/tuck, the development team at Haval is pumping out totally new products every four years.
With that in mind, the H6 earmarked for our shores (or not, depending on which direction the winds in Baoding are blowing) will also be a far more modern vehicle than the car we briefly experienced in China, and a two-generation jump over the H6 in Haval showrooms Down Under.
Although it has a similar interior design to the F7, the H6 we drove at the Haval proving ground didn’t feel quite as tied-down as the F7 from behind the wheel, and looks more upright (and slightly dowdier) from the outside.
With that said, it’s still a great leap forward from what we’re currently offered in Australia.
Don’t hold your breath for the brand’s flagship Wey product, though. It’s reserved for China at the moment, and its expansion plans are heavily focused on the USA and Europe.
Named after Haval’s founder – an unusual, bold move in China, apparently – the brand has only been around for three years, but already outsells the likes of Lexus in the Middle Kingdom.
Even compared to the already-impressive F7, the Wey VV7 feels notably more upmarket. It’s also nicer to drive, as Mike Costello discovered in 2018.
Preceding the launch of the new SUV range will be Great Wall’s new ute, set for a full unveil at the Shanghai motor show on April 16.
It’ll arrive in Australia in the next 12 to 18 months.