We traveled to Guangzhou, China to learn more about GAC Motor, their history, their technology, their cars, joint ventures, global plans, and last but not least, the Middle Eastern plans. I'm now back in the UAE and I can't stop talking to colleagues, friends, and family of what I have seen. People, listen, you need to change your perception towards Chinese cars. While this might be something nearly impossible to do overnight and with one article, I'll use GAC story to give you tools that will eventually start making you think twice. Hopefully, you will also understand why I am impressed, and I can't stop talking about it.
Just to set your expectations, this will not be a short article, but trust me on this one, it is a must-read. From my side, I'll try to make it as entertaining as possible. My goal here is to sort of reset your thoughts towards Chinese cars. You will then find a question at the beginning of the article and the same question at the end. If you come up with a different answer or at least I made you think twice, the job is done!
Now, the question is: How likely are you to buy a Chinese car?
The below learnings came through an intense 3-day trip where we visited all major facilities with GAC team. We have been to GAC factory and walk through all the production line and test facilities, we also visited the Research and Development (R&D) center, GAC headquarters and New GAC NE (New Energy) Factory where they produced only electric and hybrid vehicles. In addition, and just to give you an idea of how serious these people are planning to expand to the Middle East, we sat with all major executives of GAC Motor. Including the President himself, the Executive Vice President, the General Manager, the Deputy Director of PR, the Deputy Director of Sales, the Deputy Director of Marketing and the Middle East Manager. All of them addressing every single question, detail and/or concern we had in regard to their brand.
Enough intro let us now get into the core of the story.
Understanding what GAC is:
GAC stands for Guangzhou Automobile Group Motor Co and has been in the market for only 10 years. And I will tell you what they have achieved in just 10 years. Then you will tell me if you have heard any automotive company to scale this fast.
Brands that do not need introductions, such as Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi and FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) signed joint ventures with GAC. In simple English, this means that GAC produces models for those brands. Throughout their story, they have built very popular models such as the Toyota Yaris, Camry, Camry Hybrid and C-HR. They also did the Honda Accord, City, Fit and Odyssey. Following the Japanese brands, GAC also builds the Mitsubishi Outlander and Eclipse Cross. And last but not least, and among many others, the Jeep Compass, Renegade and the new American answer to the big 7-seater SUVs, the Jeep Grand Commander.
This is clearly helping them to lead the rise of Chinese brands across the world. I mean, if those ‘more traditional’ brands trust them to build their cars; wouldn't you at least give them the chance and test drive them?
Achievements they are proud of
And will make you more comfortable. During 2018 GAC has been included into the list of the world's top 100 valuable automotive brands. They also ranked as the #1 Chinese brand in J.D Power Sales Satisfaction Index for two consecutive years and as #1 Chinese brand in, again, J.D Power Initial Quality Study for six consecutive years.
About the future
Would have been concerning not seeing something about electrification and autonomous driving but that wasn't the case. GAC has recently opened an all-new factory to build their new energy vehicles called GAC NE. As mentioned before, NE stands for New Energy.
In this factory, they only build hybrids and electric vehicles such as the fully electric crossover GE3 530, the plug-in hybrid GS4 and the fully electric sedan GAC Aion. There is an aim to eventually bring the Aion to the Middle East and we had the chance to drive it and learn more about it.
While it was a short drive, first contact sort of thing, the fully electric GAC Aion will have 500 kilometers of range at a price point of USD 33,000. From our side, and trying to speed up things, we have shared with them our Electric Vehicle report for the GCC.
Break: Don't forget about the main purpose of this story. Remember the question: How likely are you to buy a Chinese car?
In the Middle East
There are plans to rapidly expand the line-up with the GA3S (sedan), GS7 (SUV), GS3 (Crossover) and the GM8 (Van). If you want to try them now, you choose the following options:
GA8: A full-size executive sedan produced by GAC, the GA8 goes up against the likes of the Kia Cadenza, Hyundai Azera, Chevrolet Impala, and Renault Talisman in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Available in just one very well-equipped trim, the full-option model retails for AED 102,900 in the UAE and SAR 105,060 in Saudi Arabia.Finance options start from AED 1,604 per month in the UAE and SAR 1,638 per month in Saudi Arabia.
GS8: A mid-size crossover and the brand’s largest model in its Middle Eastern line-up, the GS8 is designed by ex-Mercedes-Benz designer Fan Zhang and wears a starting price of AED 104,900 in the UAE. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, prices are upward of SAR 107,100 and competition include the Chevrolet Traverse, Mitsubishi Pajero and Kia Sorento. Installments in the UAE come in as low as AED 1,635 per month, while they are SAR 1,670 in Saudi Arabia.
GS4: Having made its first appearance at the Auto Shanghai in 2015, the GAC GS4 is built on the same platform as the GA3 sedan and wears an attractive starting price of AED 70,900 in the UAE and SAR 72,390 in Saudi Arabia. Being a compact crossover and targeted to a younger generation of buyers, rivals for the GS4 include the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Creta, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Kia Sportage. Finance options start from AED 1,105 per month in the UAE and at SAR 1,130 in Saudi.
Who is behind the brand? I was in contact with both UAE and Saudi distributors. During this trip, I had the chance to meet the people of Al Jomaih Automotive which is the GAC official dealer for Saudi Arabia. People that have a proven record in the industry being the largest GM distributors in the Middle East selling Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac. For the UAE you have another big name. GAC falls under Gargash the same distributor as Mercedes-Benz and Alfa Romeo in the UAE.
About the people
Companies without the right people are like cars without an engine. And while this might sound completely off, I have rarely seen a team so committed and connected. GAC group, their agencies, and distributors are in perfect synergy towards leading the rise of Chinese brands across the globe.
These guys have a formula which is good products + technology + a vision towards better transportation + solid and reliable distributors. If they will do well or not, we do not know at this stage. Learning from other brands that have launched recently, and to make the formula even stronger, they will need to invest in developing and growing the brand by using the right channels to reach the right people. In the meantime, if you are in the market for a sedan, crossover or SUV, give these people a chance because it will make a lot of sense.
Now, to close and going back to the main question; how likely are you to buy a Chinese car? I would love to hear your feedback on the comments or else you can reach out to me at [email protected]
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