BAODING, Hebei – “Improving little by little everyday” has been the motto of Great Wall Motor Co., Ltd., which has led the Chinese SUV market in sales for 14 consecutive years.
And little by little, Great Wall’s Haval has grown into a brand with annual sales of nearly 1 million units, less than four years after the company decided to turn it into a standalone brand devoted exclusively to SUVs.
And now, the company’s often low-key but sometimes outspoken chairman Wei Jianjun, who launched the WEY luxury brand last year named after him, wants to elevate Haval even further into the world’s bestselling SUV brand and double annual sales to 2 million units in 2020.
Wei announced the ambitious new targets at the 2017 Haval SUV Brand Celebration held at the Haval R&D Center here on the evening of February 19, and he is so determined to make it happen that he is willing to put aside Great Wall’s passenger car business altogether.
“Unless we get to No. 1 globally for SUVs, we will not introduce any more cars,” said Wei boldly. “Haval will not be weakened as a brand with the introduction of the WEY. We will make it the absolute sales leader in the SUV segment priced below ¥150,000 ($21,800).”
No. 1 in many ways
Great Wall had a banner year in 2016 in terms of both sales volume and profits: it became the first ever Chinese automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles and achieve more than ¥10 billion in net profits in a single year.
Of the more than 1.07 million vehicles Great Wall sold, Haval SUVs accounted for almost 90 percent or nearly 940,000 units, making it the first-ever SUV brand in China to reach the 1 million-unit sales plateau, an achievement that Wei says was a major milestone for Great Wall. That makes Haval the world’s second bestselling SUV brand after Jeep and before Land Rover.
“Haval started from scratch and has now developed into a brand with annual sales of 1 million units. This is a miracle for the Chinese auto industry and I’m gratified of this achievement and feel great responsibility for it,” said Wei.
The brand’s core model, the H6, sold more than 580,000 units, good for fourth on the list of top selling SUV models globally last year, after the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.
“Our goal is for the H6 to surpass all of these models to become the world’s top selling SUV model by 2020,” said Wei. “We have already planned more than 40 new models covering all segments of the SUV market and we want to pass Jeep and Land Rover to become the world’s biggest, safest and most professional SUV brand.”
To help Haval get there, Great Wall is planning to invest ¥30 billion by 2020 to establish a global R&D mechanism and become a leader in active and passive safety technology, smart connectivity and autonomous driving. It will also expand new energy vehicle lineup with mainly plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles and offer the safest new energy SUVs for consumers.
Wei also focused on the aspect of safety and believes that building SUVs is not just simply raising the chassis of cars or MPVs and make them into SUV products but rather requires professionalism and technology thresholds. “Haval has invested huge R&D resources in ensuring safety of SUVs and leads safety performance among competitors,” said Wei. “Because we are more professional, our SUVs are safer. This is our promise. Buying a Haval means buying the safest SUV. This is a key reason why nearly 1 million customers have chosen Haval.”
To ensure safety, Haval uses specialized 3DP body for its vehicles which have higher proportion of high-strength steel use than some luxury brands, and offers richer active safety features and passive safety performance than comparably priced and equipped models.
Haval is also actively conducting autonomous driving research and has developed its own self-driving system called “i-pilot” smart navigation, through coordinated development in China, India and the U.S. The system has already reached NHTSA Level 3 capabilities, is currently being road tested and is expected to commercialize after 2020.
“I believe autonomous driving systems will take over humans as the major controller of the vehicle,” said Wei. “Our ultimate goal is to launch a fully autonomous SUV that is also the safest SUV.”
Besides safety, Wei also credited credibility and integrity of the Haval brand for its success. In fact, Haval has ranked first in sales and aftersales service satisfaction and dealer service satisfaction in the industry for two consecutive years, and has the lowest customer complaint rate in the industry. Wei believes that Haval’s persistence in its “customer-oriented” integrity service philosophy has helped it earn its reputation and a leader in trusted services.
“As a Chinese brand, Haval knows more about Chinese customers who trust the brand,” said Wei. “We are confident that we can make it into a world-class SUV brand.”
Top honors from Brand Finance 2017 brand rankings
Haval is already on top of the world, according to leading independent brand evaluation firm Brand Finance, which awarded it the world’s most powerful SUV brand and China’s most powerful auto brand in its 2017 brand rankings released earlier this month.
Haval ranks No. 4 among auto brands that produce SUVs and has overtaken Jeep as the No. 2 most valuable SUV brand in the world after Land Rover and before Mahindra and Jeep with a brand value of $3.017 billion, an impressive 40 percent rise over 2016, with a rating of AA+.
“Haval has made exceptional progress as a brand,” said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance. “Haval has done an exceptional job in terms of marketing efficiency to create that brand value. Brand value creation as a ratio of marketing spend is almost three times higher than its closest competitor, truly exceptional.”
Haigh believes that if over the last 25 years, China has exceled in production and distribution to become the workshop of the world, then over the next 25 years China will lead the world in innovation and reputation and will become the envy, rather than just the workshop of the world.
Core model gets makeover: New H6 based on new platform designed around safety
The next generation of the H6 – the core model crucial to Haval’s success – made its debut at the event and is built on what Pierre Leclercq, vice president of design of Great Wall, calls a brand new platform designed around safety and fully forward engineered.
The All New H6 is wider, a little shorter by 40 mm, taller and has bigger wheels and a significantly raised bonnet. It will still offer the Red and Blue versions with the former based on a very big grille architecture and smaller lights on the corner and the latter with a much thinner and wider hexagonal grille with long headlights.
“We want to make sure we had a perfect product that is refined at first look and feels refined. This has been done through hours and hours of work, rework and refinement, all the way to the last millimeter,” said Leclercq. “Replacing a product that has been very successful is a much more difficult thing to do than replacing a product that didn’t sell.”
The All New H6 also offers all the latest technologies starting with a brand new user interface with a digital cluster and infotainment screen, and the uniqueness, quality of construction and touch and feel was stepped up a lot by using the best materials in the industry today.
It will be powered by a new 1.3T or 2.0T + 7DCT transmission (from Getrag) combination that offers significant improvement in fuel efficiency. Market launch is expected later this year.