Great Wall Motors (GWM) has been in South Africa for around a decade and to date has sold more than 55 000 of its cars to South African consumers. This is a big number for a Chinese manufacturer in a market where consumers are brand loyal and true to what they know. But in recent times GWM saw a decline in sales and wants to get their act together in a country they see as a key market. Part of that strategy plan is to launch a new product offensive in SA; one that GWM hopes will grab the public’s attention. Que the music and welcome Haval Motors.
Haval has been the number one SUV manufacturer in China for the last 14 years and is a sub-brand of mother company GWM. One might think that because the brand hails from China that fit and finish might be below par, but Haval has garnered international praise and awards for the quality of its products. Fair enough, we as South Africans have little to no knowledge on Haval, but the automaker is adamant that that will change in the very near future.
In the coming months current GWM dealers will be rebranded and upgraded to more premium Haval dealerships, but will continue to sell both GWM and Haval products. Haval will also handle the importation of its and GWM’s products, as well as make sure that parts are in rich supply in the country. Haval SA is especially proud that it, as GWM previously, could supply parts whenever it was needed and will be looking to continue that trend.
At the South African launch Haval announced that it will kick things off with the H2 first and will expand the range over the course of 2017 and 2018. The H2, at first glance, seems to be a very solid product from the Chinese automaker. The materials used, the execution and layout of the interior, and perceivable quality seems well put together and solid. And on the doors and dashboard Haval kitted the H2 with soft-touch leather in places. The little SUV will compete against the likes of the Hyundai Creta and Mazda CX-3, but Haval believes that its extensive list of standard features will be what sets the H2 apart in its segment, as well as giving it the advantage of being an affordable offering.
The launch took place at the new Kyalami racetrack in Gauteng and media got the chance to sample the H2 out on track. The H2 is unlikely to ever be driven around a track but its turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine (110kW/210Nm) feels responsive with adequate feedback from the accelerator and the ZF gearbox. First impressions count for a lot and the H2, on face value, warrants that it be considered given the package it offers. All things considered, the Chinese have arrived again and Haval is heading that new charge.