2013 has been a mixed year for auto brands in China, Ford for example have had an amazing year in which they overtook Toyota in terms of total sales and Volkswagen remains an untouchable juggernaut in Chinese eyes, with them becoming the largest car maker in terms of sales in the Chinese market, furthermore Volkswagen believe they are restricted by capacity which means they believe they can sell even more vehicles in 2014.
But let’s not focus on the big brands in 2014, we should look at other brands beyond the headline grabbers that we have seen over 2013.
Fiat have had a below par performance in 2013 with their sole line up of the Fiat Viaggio, but we should look at the facts; Fiat are hampered by a single product line up in a hotly contested market with products from every major and minor manufacturer, they also have a smaller distribution network but that is rapidly expanding.
What makes Fiat different for 2014? They have the handsome new Ottimo hatchback coming in what we expect to be the first quarter of 2014 as a locally made product. Chinese demand for cars is changing from the traditional sedan to more hatchback and wagon focus and with the handsome Fiat Ottimo, Fiat are likely to have a hit on their hands. Note that Fiat is also gaining major traction in its home city of Changsha where the Viaggio is made, sales sky rocketed 260% after a recent local auto show and the modest sized stand was mobbed by media.
Volvo’s first Chinese factory in Chengdu is online and is currently busy pumping out China only Volvo S60L, next step is Volvo’s Daqing factory that will produce an unknown vehicle, likely the XC60 SUV.
Why is Volvo worth watching? The Swedish company has finally got its Chinese chips in line with products that Chinese actually want – stretched sedans, luxurious compacts and fast selling SUV’s, the only thing that is missing is an MPV, which if you believe the rumor mill is, an MPV is on its way.
Geely got its first taste of global sales in 2013 with increased international sales. Whilst Geely is trailing its local rivals on the international stage it is now well prepped with a strong brand line up to compete with the likes of Great Wall, Lifan, Chery and JAC, all of whom have raced ahead on the global stage.
Geely will forever be known as the company that bought Volvo giving it prestige as a low cost Volvo, even though at this stage the two are not even related in their engineering DNA – that will likely come at a later stage thanks to Geely-Volvo’s joint R&D facility in Sweden.
This is a company that has risen from post-world war two ashes only to dissolve again and then rise. Now they have a fairly decent arsenal of comprehensive products based on the back of the Saab 93 and Saab 95 platforms, both of which have come to the market with impressive technology and equally impressive pricing, a 2.0T Beijing sedan producing 200bhp and based on the Saab 95 will set you back a mere 140,000RMB. At the same time Beijing also have their own Wrangler inspired Jeep, it’s not exactly priced competitively against other Chinese SUV’s it is a halo vehicle that has brought wide media attention to the brand.
We cannot mention brands to watch without mentioning this all new international Chinese brand focused on providing technology and quality without any compromise. Qoros have the right product mix for the Chinese market and also high aspirations, with a promised to bring a new product to the market every six months.
On the international market Qoros will likely have a harder time owing to an advanced market that generally views new comers with an air of suspicion. MG’s follies in the UK only prove that Chinese cars that don’t have an extremely unique selling point will have a hard time – Great Wall on the other hand have found themselves a good niche with the demand for diesel low cost pick-up trucks picking up speed. To date, Qoros have entered the mighty Slovenian market which may seem miniscule on the grand scheme of things, but it is a strong test for the company on its European expansion.
Qoros’ next step would be to bring diesel engines to satisfy European demands, or smaller displacement ultra-frugal gasoline engines.