General Motors has scored a second hit in China with a petrol-guzzling sports-utility vehicle (SUV) powered by an internal combustion engine even as it went against the herd in a market that is embracing electric cars at a breakneck pace.
The Xingchen SUV, with a catalogue price between 69,800 yuan (US$10,830) and 99,800 yuan, sold more than 10,000 units since its launch on September 27, according to a statement by General Motors’ venture SAIC-GM-Wuling, adding that there is a “buying euphoria” for the vehicle.
Xingchen, which means stars in Chinese, is the second blockbuster in two years for General Motors’ three-way venture since a two-seat version of the US$5,000 Hongguan Mini EV stole the limelight at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, outselling larger, better-known and pricier electric cars made by Tesla and others. The Xingchen SUV runs on petroleum, making its runaway success particularly noteworthy in a market where three of every five new vehicles to enter China’s roads in 2030 will be run by battery packs, according to UBS’ forecast.
Sales of petrol-guzzling vehicles fell to 1.39 million units in September, a slump of 23 per cent from a year ago, according to data provided by the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). Sales of new-energy vehicles – comprising battery-powered electric cars, plug-in petrol-electric hybrids and those that run on hydrogen fuel cells – soared 202 per cent in the same month to 334,000 units in the same period.
SAIC-GM-Wuling’s Hongguang MINI EV, on display at the Auto Shanghai trade show on April 20, 2021. Photo: Reuters.
“The successful launch of Xingchen adds to the body of evidence that proves that the low-end car market is still largely untapped with huge consumer demand,” said Eric Han, a senior manager with Shanghai-based business advisory firm Suolei. “SAIC-GM-Wuling is the champion of the segment now.”
In China’s vehicle market, the world’s largest since 2009, monthly delivery of 10,000 vehicles is generally accepted as the minimum for a certifiable blockbuster. The Hongguan, a three-door mini car that can travel up to 170 kilometres on a single charge for a starting price of 28,800 yuan, was such a hit, selling 270,000 units in the first 270 days of its launch in mid-2020.
Xingchen, a five-seat SUV, is powered by a 1.5-litre engine. It is the first SUV since 2002 by SAIC-GM-Wuling, best known as a producer of low-priced minivans and mini buses popular in China’s smaller cities and villages. The new SUV model sports an eight-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touch screen command centre. The vehicle’s infotainment system runs on Wuling’s Ling OS operating system.