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The only opponent to beat Tesla in China

Tesla has been the leader in the Chinese electric vehicle market since it started production at the Shanghai factory, but is being overtaken by a domestic competitor.

In the showroom of a SAIC-GM-Wuling dealer in Chongqing, a salesman suggested a Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, an electric vehicle that has quickly conquered Chinese drivers since its domestic market launch. July 2020.

The small car corresponds to the name, less than 3 meters long and less than 1.5 meters wide, but still can carry 4 people. Prices start at around $ 4,500, and with a more comfortable, air-conditioned version, prices are slightly more than $ 5,000.

“If you pay $ 2,000 in advance, the rest is interest free,” said the salesperson.

Hongguang Mini EV looks like Japanese kei-car line, with compact size. Image: Wuling

While the Hongguang Mini lacks what Tesla has, such as mileage per charge and performance, convenience and low cost make the domestic product one of the best-selling “new energy” vehicles. China. This segment includes electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

The small car is a big boost for SAIC. The company currently holds a majority stake in SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture to manufacture and sell cars, which is known in the domestic market as Wuling. General Motors (GM) is also a major shareholder.

Introduced as the “people’s daily commute”, the standard version can run 120 km on a full charge and a top speed of 100 km / h – enough to drive each of these for the majority of consumers. . The car does not use high-tech batteries, which helps to reduce costs, and can be charged with standard civil electric lines.

The Hongguang Mini sold 112,000 vehicles during July-December 2020, second after Tesla’s Model 3, but based on base sales per month. Therefore, the Chinese electric car is believed to be the second best-selling electric car in the world, just behind the Model 3.

By 2021, in January alone, a total of 25,778 Mini EVs were sold, according to the China Automobile Automobile Association (CPCA). Sales of the Mini EV are almost twice as large as 13,843 Model 3 units.

The car can carry 4 people despite its super compact appearance, or carry two people and the rest of the space for luggage and belongings.  Photo: Wuling

The car can carry 4 people despite its super compact appearance, or carry two people and the rest of the space for luggage and belongings. Image: Wuling

Alan Kang, an analyst at British research firm LMC Automotive said: “Customers score high for low prices and designs. Cars sell well in Henan and Shandong provinces.” Small, cheap electric cars that can operate without a driver’s license, but also cannot run on highways, are very successful in these areas. Some drivers of this small car have changed to the Hongguang Mini.

This product from Wuling may also be available in markets outside of China. Wuling said in August 2020 about plans to export the Hongguang Mini, and media reported that it had partnered with the Latvian carmaker to sell a version of the Hongguang Mini in Europe, although the price was reasonable. is expected to be twice as high due to the strict environmental standards in the old continent.

Like SAIC, Great Wall Motor (Truong Thanh) also enjoyed the increase in sales from affordable electric cars. Sales of its new energy vehicle line in China increased 45% in 2020. This is largely due to the lovely design of the Ora R1 and the price is less than 11,000 USD.

A representative of an agent in Hubei said: “It is thanks to the huge support from customers whose income has been reduced due to the impact of the Covid-19 translation”.

Meanwhile, high-end electric vehicles have also performed well, with Tesla tripling sales in China. The Model 3 is priced around $ 39,000, albeit reduced after the launch of a product made in China.

An industry source commented: “Purchasing power from the middle class increases due to the need to spend while not being able to travel abroad”.

Hongguang Mini EV with minimalist interior and rear seats folded flat when not in use.  Photo: Wuling

Hongguang Mini EV with minimalist interior and rear seats folded flat when not in use. Image: Wuling

Chinese electric car startups are looking to be the next Tesla. Nio also more than doubled its sales, becoming the 8th company in terms of new energy vehicle sales in 2020, rising from 13th place. Li Auto also increased sales 25 times and took 10th place.

Altogether, China’s five biggest electric-vehicle startups grew sales 150 percent in 2020.

To compensate for the impact of the epidemic, local authorities have introduced programs to encourage consumption, as well as policies to support mainly electric cars. These factors have saved the domestic market.

The Chinese government plans to bring new energy vehicles to account for half of new car sales by 2035. The market for new energy cars will account for 45% this year, according to the LMC.

The major automakers across the globe are likely to make a strong comeback in the electric car race in China. Volkswagen, which leads the overall sales of the Chinese market, will also increase sales of new energy vehicles by nearly 50% in 2020.

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