Contrary to pop culture belief, “China made” is beginning to be a top level product badge that no one wants to believe. In decades past, a tag of Made in China will immediately elicit a reaction of poor quality, craftsmanship and originality. And though it was true at the beginning of the Asian giants entry into their own industrial revolution, today, China produces most of the worlds best brands. Brands like Apple, or Nike, or Sony, once proudly bearing the mark Made in America or Japan, are mostly made in China.
It became inevitable for the Middle Kingdom to enter the automotive and mobility industry simply because of their sheer size and the volume of their population. When your country has almost half of the worlds population and your land mass is twice that of the next biggest nation, it is easier to build a market and sell to them in volume than try and enter foreign markets.
And that is what China has been busy doing in the past 15 years, building cars that can compete with the best the world has to offer. After a disastrous entry into the global market a decade and a half ago, China decided to close its automotive industry doors to the foreign markets and concentrate on domestic sales. Which is not half that bad since, as I said earlier, they own almost half the world’s population. By selling locally, they did not have to deal with the international backlash of poorly made cars and in the process earn their markets loyalty.
So China, using its vast, accumulated wealth, bought out the best but floundering car brands in the world, invested in them heavily to turn more profit, and take their technology and know-how back home to build their own.
The other path they took was to offer joint ventures with car brands who wish to enter their very profitable market. This way also gave them access to advanced technology and knowledge to build their own cars.
GAC Motor is one of these companies. Assembling Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Hino trucks and recently Fiat-Chrysler (FCA), Jeep and Honda motorcycles for the Chinese domestic market, GAC was able to acquire all they needed to know to build their own line of automobiles, trucks and mobility products.
Currently GAC produces the GS3, GS4, GS5, 6,7 and 8 SUV’s and the GA4, GA6, and GA8 sedans. All these cars are now available in the Philippines through Legado Motors.
Today, sitting on an over 80-hectare industrial estate in Guangzhou (Canton) China is GAC’s assembly plant, R&D facility and corporate headquarters. This facility is capable of producing some 650,000 units of GAC branded products ranging from cars to SUV’s. In the middle of these creations and design pursuits is former Mercedes-Benz designer Zhang Fan, the guy behind the previous designs of the A-Class and the SLK.
At the Guangzhou Auto Show last November 22, 2019, , GAC presented the Eno.146 probably the most advanced electric automotive prototype in the world. The Eno.146 has a distance range of one thousand (1000) kilometers and the body designed for a drag coefficient of 0.146. A drag coefficient is the amount of friction a car experiences when it runs forward considering the amount of wind, moisture and air balance in the atmosphere. Asked why they built the Eno.146, Zhang Fan said they wanted to create an electric sports that can compete with the best the world has to offer.
At the Canton Fair grounds, I asked Leo Kong, GAC Deputy Regional Sales Director for ASEAN Region why they built the ENO.146 and he simply said “because we can?” The ENO.146 will have a production model version by next year, 2020, but with only a range of 650 kilometers. This is in line with the commitment of auto manufacturers in China to the Chinese government to have all cars in their country electric by 2035.
And after all is said and done by the western leaders in the auto industry, if China achieves this goal, it would not all have been hot air after all.