Chinese automakers have not been mere copyists for a long time. And the high-volume but little profitable business with bread and butter cars is no longer enough for them as a field of activity. They are increasingly pushing into the premium market. Not just in their home country.
Newest contender for a place among the luxury brands: Wey, the new luxurySUVLabel from Great Wall Motors. With the compact SUV W01 and the somewhat sportier designed offshoot W02, the brand, which is not quite unpretentiously named after CEO Wey Jianjun, has just presented its first two models. In terms of price, they are slightly above the group sisters Haval H6, on whose platform they are based. The volume and premium models should differ primarily in terms of design, equipment and drive. Strategically, the Chinese are following a path similar to that of Toyota with Lexus, Honda with Acura or Nissan with Infiniti.
Great Wall is not the only Chinese manufacturer that wants to establish itself in the premium segment. The best-known new luxury brand of Chinese origin is likely to be Borgward. The BAIC Group with its subsidiary Foton has bought the name of the traditional Bremen company and is now offering refurbished versions of Senova vehicles under it. The middle-class SUV Borgward BX7 and the compact BX5 will also be offered in Europe and Germany from 2018. Lynk & Co., The premium offshoot of Volvo parent Geely, is also pursuing similar expansion plans. The compact SUV 01 already caused a sensation when it was launched in autumn with its competitive design. Before it comes to Europe, it will initially start in 2017 on the home market.
The mission of Lynk & Co 01, Borgward BX7 and Wey 01 is clear: Break the supremacy of foreign brands in the premium segment. They currently hold 99 percent of the market, around 75 percent are shared by the German top dogs Audi, BMW and Mercedes. In total, it is about two million cars a year, and the trend is rising. While the premium share of the total market in the USA is 12 percent and in Europe even 23 percent, the quota in China is only around 10 percent.
So there is enough room for growth in China. Against this background, Europe seems to be an interesting market, if at all for image reasons. What is successful abroad is doubly appreciated by Chinese drivers. However, it should also be clear that the gold rush times in China are slowly coming to an end for German premium manufacturers. (Holger Holzer / SP-X)