China’s automotive industry has found an unlikely hero after the Wuling Hong Guang Micro electric vehicle (EV), a joint venture between General Motors (GM) and SAIC Motor, outsold the Tesla Model 3 in China.
Chinese EV manufacturers eager to be the ”next Tesla” have had to find ways to ride the momentum created by the tech giant and navigate a market dampened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Hong Guang EV racked up more than 15 000 orders within three weeks of its debut. Chinese customers are buying again, and they are buying smaller.
The small, boxy shaped micro-car is powered by a battery unit only capable of producing 17.4 horsepower and 85Nm (a standard Kia Picanto has around 65 horsepower).
The SAIC Motor-GM duo is marketing the vehicle to city-dwellers through nearly 100 ”experience stores” in city centres. The car is not fast, with a top speed of 100kph, and a range that is limited to 170km, but the team say the brand will appeal to young consumers looking for a cheap means of transport in and around urban hubs.
The car retails at around 10% of a new Tesla 3 and, with Tesla’s ever-popular Model 3 enjoying a surge in sales too, the two are not competing with one another.
Wuling Hong Guang’s aggressive price point is one of many ways Chinese EV manufacturers are keeping units rolling off showroom floors during the Covid-19 pandemic that has seen global markets shrink and customers hesitant to reach into their pockets.
EV companies Nio and Tesla have started a battery-as-a-service scheme to slash EV pricing.
Battery-as-a-service (BaaS) entails paying a monthly fee for the right to use and exchange battery packs at various hubs. Expensive battery packs are one of the biggest hurdles faced by prospective buyers and this is largely what keeps gasoline alternatives popular.
Nio announced in late August that BaaS would become an option for buyers, with an entry-level Nio ES6 costing 343 600 Yuan with the pack and 273 600 Yuan without the battery pack. Tesla has now included BaaS as part of its offering.
Nio has 143 battery swapping outlets and has committed to building an additional 157 by the end of next year, according to Nio chief executive, William Li.