Manufacturing News

Chinese brands launch high-end marques

Chinese carmakers are launching high-end new marques as part of efforts to take on international rivals in the increasingly competitive auto market.

Earlier this month, Changan Auto Chairman Zhu Huarong said the company will unveil a new brand in partnership with Huawei and CATL, China's biggest electric car battery maker. The first model will soon go into mass production.

Zhu said vehicles of the brand will be built on a world-leading, independent and controllable smart electric platform. He said the brand will feature a smart lifestyle and an ecosystem involving people, cars and homes.

Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, said they will partner to sharpen the competitive edge of made-in-China products and technologies, and offer customers better traveling experience with their smart mobility solutions.

It is not the first time that Changan, partner of Mazda and Ford, has tried to break people's stereotype of Chinese brands.

At the ongoing Guangzhou auto show, Changan unveiled an SUV called UNI-K, which is expected to compete in the medium and high-end segment dominated by models from brands like Volkswagen and Toyota.

Changan said it will launch five UNI-series models in five years, including both sedans and SUVs.

Roy Lu, director of Gasgoo Auto Research Institute, said Chinese carmakers are starting to lead in terms of electrified and smart vehicles in the past several years, and good new local marques can be attractive to the Generation Z, as they don't take it for granted that international brands are better.

"For example, models from international brands, even premium ones, do not work well in terms of voice recognition, especially when it comes to dialects. Chinese brands, in collaboration with local AI companies, have done a better job," Lu said.

Changan is not alone. In the past few years, many Chinese carmakers including both State-owned and private companies are exploring their way out of the cheaper-model segment to seize a larger share in the market.

Earlier this year, Wuhan-based Dongfeng unveiled an electric car brand Voyah. Lu Fang, CEO and CTO of the brand, said Voyah aims to become a leading player in China's high-end premium electric vehicle segment.

The brand has developed a platform called the Electric, Smart and Secure Architecture. Voyah said the architecture is designed to offer its vehicles multiple power choices, software updates and improved safety.

Starting in 2021, Voyah will launch at least one model a year and have offerings in segments including sedans, SUVs and MPVs in five years.

BJEV, a subsidiary of Beijing-headquartered BAIC Group, launched an electric SUV, which is the first model of its premium Arcfox brand, last month. The second model, a mid-sized sedan, is expected to hit the market in 2021.

It said Arcfox conducts technical validation at a lab Daimler built with BAIC, which is also its partner for producing Mercedes-Benz models. Chinese technology giant Huawei provides connectivity and 5G-related solutions in Arcfox models.

Magna has established two joint ventures with BJEV, one specializing in electric vehicle design and development, and the other a car-manufacturing plant.

The joint venture brings together BJEV's expertise in electrification and Magna's vehicle engineering knowhow for the Chinese market, said BJEV President Liu Yu.

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