For a long time, China was a classic limousine country. If you were a bit self-assured, you bought notchback cars - with a preference from Western brands. But since the market growth has shifted from the metropolises on the coast to the hinterland, another class has become increasingly popular: the compact SUV - now also from a domestic manufacturer. Above all, the Great Wall brand Haval caters to demand: the H6 already has the current bestseller in its range, and the new variant H6 Coupé could now cause a sensation once again. The five-door is one of the most convincing China models at this year's Shanghai Auto Show and in many ways no longer has to hide from Western competition.
Admittedly, it smells a bit strange when you take a seat in the soft leatherette seats of the H6 Coupé. At Tiguan and Co., the German customer would probably get out again directly because of the chemical odeur. But if you don't mind, you can look at a chic and clean cockpit that reminds you of the driver's workplace in Wolfsburg group models even in a few details - such as the climate control, the navigation screen or the rotary pushbutton in the center console . At least the exhibition vehicle on display is well made, the materials feel neat, if not quite as good as in European cars.
On the outside, the Haval does not use known models as much - except for the genre-typical proportions and the C-pillar, which is slightly based on a Range Rover Evoque. The coupé wants to be something like the fancier version of the standard H6, a little shorter, a little flatter, but thanks to the slightly larger wheelbase it is similarly spacious. There is also a modern look with a beefy hexagonal grille and pretty flanking headlights. Europeans should also feel attracted to this. But what is supposed to entice the Chinese to buy is the price. The H19.500 Coupé will cost around 6 euros when it hits the market in the second half of the year. The standard model launched in 2013 is even available for around 15.000 euros. Western competition in China is at least twice as expensive. The cheapest version of the VW Tiguan, for example, costs just under 30.000 euros.
The significant price advantage is what makes the H6 by far the best-selling SUV in China. According to the China Passenger Car Association, more than 315.000 units were registered last year, the Tiguan from Shanghai-VW came in second place with a good 237.000 units, and the CR-V from Dongfeng-Honda came third with 168.000 vehicles. The western manufacturers with their joint ventures are still well represented in the SUV bestseller list, but more and more purely Chinese models are joining. From Haval, for example, the smaller models H1 and H2, plus countless others such as the Changan CS35, the BYD S6 or the Chery Tiggo 5 - cars that no one in Europe knows, but which in China have five to six-digit registration numbers per year. Around 26 percent of all newly registered cars in China were recently SUVs.
This could be a problem for western manufacturers. You build the technically more sophisticated SUV, but also the more expensive one. However, the prestige that they sell with them does not play a major role in the country's new boom regions. The double-digit market growth no longer takes place in the large cities of the east, but especially in the megacities of the hinterland, which are almost unknown in Germany, for example in Chongqing, southwest China, with its almost 29 million inhabitants on an area the size of Austria. Almost 2014 percent more new cars were registered there in 30 than in the previous year. Hardly anyone needs four-wheel drive and western off-road technology. Customers appreciate less the off-road capability, which is often not available anyway, but above all the feeling of security that the beefy cars give in city traffic. And domestic manufacturers can deliver that without high-tech expertise.
Volkswagen is therefore apparently now looking for a connection. According to a report by “Manager Magazin”, the group is considering a cooperation with Haval's mother, Great Wall, which will focus on the development of cheap cars. Something similar had originally been tried with the Japanese manufacturer Suzuki, but the project failed.
Negotiations with Great Wall could be tough. Because the private company does not lack self-confidence. This was particularly evident in the Haval subsidiary in Shanghai. It was not by chance that they were positioned directly next to the Mercedes stand - in a huge futuristic amphitheater. A splendid building that was probably only possible through the most creative design of the trade fair construction rules that were apparently only used by Western manufacturers. A clear declaration of war.
Author: Holger Holzer / SP-X