Opinion – Eduardo Sodré: First GWM car in Brazil, Haval H6 shows that Chinese want to play a leading role in the market


In 2009, during the Beijing Motor Show, a representative of Great Wall Motors – which today goes by the initials GWM – was excited by the visit of Brazilian journalists to the brand’s stand. “We have big plans for Brazil,” he said, in English.

After 13 years, the plans come true. And they look even bigger.

After acquiring the factory that belonged to Mercedes-Benz, in Iracemápolis (inland São Paulo), the Chinese automaker confirms that the first model produced will be a medium pickup truck with a flex-fuel hybrid engine, which should debut in 2024.

However, sales start earlier, with vehicles imported from China. The first will be the Haval H6, which will debut in the first half of 2023.

The new sports utility vehicle was presented in Rio de Janeiro, with the right to a short test run at Aterro do Flamengo, in the south of the city. It is a plug-in hybrid model, whose batteries can be charged at an outlet.

The evaluation was done in 100% electric mode. The Haval had already run a little in this condition, but there was still 138 km of autonomy.

According to GWM, it is possible to run up to 170 km without burning gasoline. In practice, it’s like having an electric car that, in the event of a power outage, brings a combustion engine –in this case, a 1.5 turbo– to avoid trouble.

In total, the combination of fuel and electricity yields 393 hp, far superior to the cars identified as rivals to the H6. The model of Chinese origin will compete with Jeep Compass, Toyota Corolla Cross and Volkswagen Taos.

The team that organized the test insisted that the adaptive cruise control be activated. The system, which is part of the list of standard items, accelerates and brakes the car alone in traffic.

When activated, the equipment recognizes the silhouette of motorcycles, cars and trucks, which appear as avatars on the digital panel. BMW has similar technology, which is even superior in resolution. But a hybrid SUV from the German brand will cost at least twice as much as the Haval H6.

Although it did not reveal values, the competitors pointed out by GWM give clues about how much the Chinese SUV will cost.

A Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid flex, for example, is offered for BRL 208,400 in the most equipped version. The plug-in hybrid Jeep Compass costs BRL 347,300. The GWM model must be positioned between one and the other.

The evaluation of the H6 was not enough to draw conclusions about performance, but it was clear that the restarts in electric mode have the vigor of models with a sporty appeal.

Other positive points are the interior space and the good impression left by the materials used in the coatings, despite the smell of plastic felt in the cabin.

The design is somewhat generic, characteristic of most SUVs available on the market today. Already the size is advantageous, with 4.65 meters long (25 centimeters more than the Jeep Compass).

When the Haval H6 debuts, GWM will have 50 stores in Brazil. The company went through a long process of selecting resellers and hopes to captivate customers with a well-maintained after-sales service. By the end of 2024, the company intends to install 133 points of sale and maintenance.

Money for this is not lacking: the automaker is in the middle of a cycle of R$ 10 billion in investments in the country

As with BYD and Caoa Chery, the bet on hybrid models made by GWM shows how much the Chinese have the potential to grow in the domestic market.

While companies already established here are still developing vehicles capable of running on gasoline, ethanol and electricity, the new brands arrive with ready-made and profitable products, able to receive tax incentives being imported or assembled in Brazil.

Added to this is the perceived quality of current products, which is the biggest sign of evolution of Chinese cars. At this fast pace of evolution and competitiveness, they will soon be more common on the streets.

The turning point should happen when GWM and BYD have their production lines in full swing, respectively in São Paulo and Bahia.

If they conquer the same current share of Caoa Chery, the Chinese together will have approximately 7% of the domestic market by the end of this decade.

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