Great Wall launches compact pickup in UK
BY 2012-04-19 19:42:15
Company becomes country's first carmaker to enter British market
Great Wall Motors Co Ltd, China's biggest maker of sport utility vehicles, introduced a compact pickup truck to the UK on Wednesday, becoming the first Chinese automotive brand to enter the British market.
The Great Wall Wingle, rebranded the Steed for the British market, also became the cheapest pickup truck in the market.
It is being sold in Britain by International Motors, whose Great Wall UK director, Paul Hegarty, said the Steed's key selling point is value.
Offered nationwide through 40 appointed dealers, the vehicle comes in two versions: the Steed S for 14,000 pounds ($22,200) and the Steed SE for 16,000 pounds.
Previously, the cheapest pickup in the market was the Isuzu Rodeo, starting at about 15,000 pounds.
"When a new brand comes to a European market, almost inevitably the pricing has to be more competitive than established brands," Hegarty said.
He said the vehicle's value is shown in details such as Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats and full leather interior.
The British market has become increasingly popular with Chinese carmakers in recent years.
Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp bought the intellectual property of Birmingham-based MG Rover in 2005 and launched the MG6 about a year ago.
Great Wall exports vehicles wholly manufactured in China, while SAIC designs and makes MG cars at MG's old plant in Birmingham.
More similar to Great Wall's experience is that of the Chinese car maker Geely, which will make a debut in Britain this year with the Emgrand EC7, to be sold through its British distributor Manganese Bronze Holdings.
Great Wall, founded in Baoding, Hebei province, in 1976, has been China's largest exporter of vehicles by volume and revenue since 1998.
With a sales network covering more than 100 countries, Great Wall sold 85,000 vehicles abroad last year, up 50 percent year-on-year.
About 120,000 Wingle pickups are sold in China each year, and 700,000 have been sold since it was introduced in 2006.
Hegarty said the next step is to introduce a Great Wall SUV to the British market.
Brian Millar of the consultancy Sense Worldwide said Great Wall's entrance into Britain is well-timed.
"We're seeing consumers being squeezed by the downturn, and looking to pay less for badges and more for 'good enough' products."
Andy Turton, global development director of automotive at TNS, a market research firm in London, said the Steed will appeal to drivers who aren't very concerned about a brand's country of origin.
"Those are individuals looking for a vehicle which is not heavily equipped (and is) reliable, functional, easy to fix, has low running costs and absolutely low purchase price." That includes many small-business owners, he said.
Great Wall announced the opening of a factory in Bulgaria in partnership with the local company Litex Motors in February. The plant, aimed at supplying Eastern European markets, has a planned annual capacity of 50,000 cars.
In a recent interview with Beijing Business Today, Wang Fengying, president of Great Wall, said the company's 15 years of export experience had allowed it to build a brand reputation abroad.
"Great Wall aims to be consistent in our overseas markets. We hope to find the right place in every market and maximize product differentiation."