Foreign car companies have dominated China’s middle and high-end auto-market for decades, while Chinese automakers could only look on in envy. But in Guangzhou, a coastal city in Southern China, some are daring to challenge the status quo.
CCTV’s Ge Yunfei has the story from Guangzhou.
Chinese auto brands have long been associated with cheap prices, bad design and low quality. But in Guangzhou, one of China’s largest car-making sites, a group of people are determined to change that stereotype.
Wu Song, the general manager of Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd., started the Trumpchi brand six years ago from scratch.
“The biggest challenge is the brand. China produces and consumes the most cars in the world, but foreign carmakers have the largest market share here. China’s own auto brands can only fight for consumers in the low-end market due to low brand recognition,” Song said.
Song said driving the cars himself used to be the best way to show the high quality. But those days are over. GAC Motor now aims to challenge foreign brands in China’s middle and high-end auto market.
“We don’t wage price wars. We reject the low-end market. Every 57 seconds a car will come out of our factory. We can produce the world’s leading small and middle-sized motor engines on our own. And our research institute ranks fourth in China,” Song said.
Today, a good, practical car alone cannot satisfy consumers. The cars need to be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful. That’s exactly where Chinese auto brands have lagged behind during the past decade, compared with foreign competition.
Zhang Fan was a chief designer of the Mercedes-Benz A class. Five years ago, he came back to China to design Song’s Trumpchi series with a team of just over 20 young men. He said in order to beat foreign competition, the key for Chinese car designers is to truly understand their customers.
“Designing for China doesn’t mean piling up all the Chinese symbols and icons. You have to meet their underlying demands — culturally and emotionally. For Chinese consumers, the outside look of a car is for others, and the interior design is for themselves,” Zhang Fan, GAC Engineering Institute chief designer, said.
Zhang’s team now has over 200 people, and their hard work and success gives him a special sense of pride.
“We Chinese designers are very capable of better designs. We are through with copying and imitating. Now it’s time to show the world our creativity and ability,” Fan said.
Fan said, Trumpchi’s goal is to be the next Huawei in China’s auto sector — and that day might come sooner than anyone expected.