While Chinese automotive brands MG and LDV are fast-tracking their way up the charts in Australia, fellow Chinese conglomerate Great Wall Motors Haval is about to redouble its efforts in the sales race.
After a stalled start via an independent distributor in Australia more than 10 years ago, GWM Haval is now a factory-backed operation with a direct line to head office in China – and has plans for a new model onslaught.
In addition to refreshing most of its SUV and ute range in Australia in the past six months, GWM Haval plans to introduce two more models next year – the oddly named and unique styled Haval Big Dog and GWM Tank 300 (pictured from left to right, below).
GWM Haval has doubled its dealer network from 40 showrooms nationally last year to 80 so far this year, and says it will finish 2020 with 90 retail outlets.
GWM Haval has already sold more cars in the first five months of 2021 than it did for the entire year in 2020.
The company admits it needs to improve brand awareness, but once a customer walks into a GWM Haval showroom, there is a one in two chance they will buy a car – the company claims, based on market research.
By comparison, the “conversion rate” for most rival showrooms is one customer out of four or five who visit will buy a new car.
GWM Haval has made bold promises before but this time, the company says, it has the direct backing of head office, who want to make a mark in Australia before launching in bigger markets such as the UK and the USA.
“We see ourselves as being a Top 10 brand within the next two to three years,” said GWM Haval marketing manager Steve Maciver.
“That's the goal, that’s the ambition, that’s the way we set this company up. We had slow-ish progress up until last year, now we're accelerating a lot more quickly. With the right dealer network and all the new models we have coming, there’s no reason we can't achieve a Top 10 sales ranking.”
Mr Maciver said Australia was a “strategic” country for GWM Haval, before it can expand into other highly competitive new-car markets.
“Our sales target for 2021 is 18,000 vehicles,” said Mr Maciver. “Last year we sold 5200 cars, and we’ve already passed that in the first five months of 2021.”
Although a sales tally of 18,000 would be more than triple what GWM Haval sold in Australia last year, the company claims “it's achievable, not a stretch target.”
Mr Maciver said while GWM Haval is a relatively unknown brand in Australia, it has been the biggest seller of utes in China for 23 years and the biggest seller of SUVs in China for 15 years – and has the capital to invest billions of dollars into new models.
“When you've got a market capitalisation of $51 billion, that allows you to have a strong (research and development) investment,” said Mr Maciver.
GWM Haval sold about 1.1 million vehicles globally last year, though 90 per cent of the tally was from domestic sales in China.
For its next growth phase, GWM Haval wants to expand into foreign markets such as Australia and New Zealand before it attempts to tackle larger markets such as the UK and the USA.
To help it grow into a global automotive player, GWM Haval has hired designers and engineers from other car giants.
Among the roster of 70,000 employees at GWM Haval are the former designer of the Range Rover Evoque and Ford Fiesta hatch, a transmission expert from Mercedes-Benz, and an engineering chief from Ford.
“In all my time in the automotive industry I’ve never seen a car company move so quickly and decisively and assign massive engineering resources where it’s needed to fast-track a project,” said Maciver. “We’re serious, and we’re coming.”