Chinese vehicle importer Great Wall Motors South Africa (GWM SA) has overcome perceptions regarding Chinese vehicle brands to exceed the company’s early sales projections threefold.
When GWM SA was launched in March 2007, the company initially projected that it would sell between 3 000 and 4 000 units in South Africa in its first years of operation. To date, the company has sold in excess of 12 000 units in South Africa. While the company has been affected by the recent economic slowdown and experienced a drop in sales, sales still remain above what the company had initially projected from an annual perspective.
GWM SA MD Henri Meistre says: “The biggest hurdle that the company is striving to overcome is other Chinese brands.” Quality issues, poor service and parts backup have created a negative peception of Chinese-manufactured vehicles. Con- sumers are more willing in good times to take a chance with a lesser known, affordable brand; however, when things get tight, consumers become risk averse and rather buy a second-hand known brand than an unknown, new Chinese model, whose ser- vice and reliability are unknown. “Until all Chinese brands show their long-term commitment and attain a reputation for reliability, vehicles from China may be tarred with the same brush,” Meistre adds.
Existing gaps in technology between Chinese vehicles and leading brands mean that the need for improved quality is more important than sales at present. It is estimated that about 10 000 Chinese-made vehicles were sold in South Africa in 2007, and if improvements in quality and service begin to take place across the board, more and more Chinese vehicles will be able to compete with well known brands.
Great Wall Motors (GWM) is the first Chinese national automotive brand to pass the European Union (EU) E1 mark. This certificate demonstrates GWM’s conformity to production standards, as well as a quality management level on par with EU requirements.
Better than expected projected sales have resulted in South Africa becoming GWM’s second-biggest export market after Russia. In view of this achievement, GWM SA intends to add to its local product portfolio and venture into a completely new market segment with the release of its first passenger vehicle, the Florid, during the second half of this year. The Florid is one of a range of four passenger-type vehicles, which GWM SA intends to introduce into the South African market.