There is a saying that excellence is seldom instant and immediate and this is particularly true in the motoring industry. However, there are a couple of exceptions, including Haval, the luxury sub-brand of Great Wall Motors (GWM).
Retailed locally through Pupkewitz GWM, the top of the range Haval currently is the H6 2.0 litre turbo, which sells for about N$390 000. However, local sales people have cautioned that as of next week customers will have to fork out more than N$406 000 for the increasingly popular model. This hefty increase is apparently due to an inflationary increase expected on all vehicles. Even Haval’s H2 manual, retailing for about N$250 000, and the automatic, which sells for N$286 000, will be affected and is expected to retail for more than N$310 000. All these models come with GWM’s five-year or 100 000km warranty.
Anyone old enough might remember that when Japanese cars first started going global five or so decades ago, they were hardly met with universal acclaim. In fact, they were shorthand for mediocrity.
A trawl through a vintage collection of UK “Car” magazines shows that back in 1974 a selection of models from well-known Japanese car makers were variously summed up as “Ho-hum,” “Ugh,” and “Nope.”
Today, of course, Nipponese cars have carved out an excellent reputation. But it took them quite a while to get there. Decades, in fact. On a similar note, when Korean cars first appeared in South Africa about two decades ago, it took several years before they inched towards becoming world-class. But when this locally unknown new brand called Haval launched on the southern African market a little over a year ago, its products were already, well, superb. And from the word “go” the Haval H2, that was unveiled at Kyalami Race Track in South Africa, drew applause from both motoring media and the buying public.
“Climb inside, pull the door shut and you immediately notice that the exterior sophistication has filtered through to the cabin,” wrote the esteemed CAR magazine when they tested a top-spec H2 1.5T Luxury auto last year.
“Once you start the engine, slot the gearlever into drive and roll down the road, the H2 exhibits a solid, well-engineered feel…the ride quality is good and commendable bump absorption makes for a comfortable driving experience.”
“Most CAR testers said they’d be happy recommending the H2 to friends and family. It is clear that, with Haval, GWM is improving the quality of its vehicles at an astounding rate…faster even than Hyundai and Kia managed to do a decade or two ago. Don’t be surprised if this brand finds similar purchase to the Koreans in our market,” the magazine concluded. So, it was perhaps hardly surprising that Haval went on to scoop the “Company To Watch” plaudit from CAR. All part of the magazine’s “Special Awards” in its prestigious “Top 12 Best Buys of 2018” awards. Or as “Leisure Wheels” magazine put it, “The Haval H2 is undoubtedly the best Chinese vehicle we’ve tested.”
Yet more applause followed the local unveiling of the H6 C. And now with the upcoming August launch of the H9 – a seven-seater capable of serious off-roading – the brand’s local growth is set to soar yet further.
In fact, it’s easily one of southern Africa’s fastest-growing automotive brands, and by the year-end some 35 accredited Haval dealerships are expected in South Africa alone, while in its home market of China over a million of these vehicles are sold per annum. In a world where Chinese vehicles have often become a byword for copycat designs and compromised build quality, how on earth has Haval bucked the trend and showcased world-class products?
“In years gone by, while the Japanese and Koreans were advancing at a rapid pace, the Chinese car makers were using tracing paper, quite frankly,” explained Tyrone Alberts, Haval’s seasoned National Sales Manager.
“But not Haval. Acutely aware of this `tracing paper’ phenomenon, they headhunted top international people in every sphere, and we mean the best of the best,” said Alberts.
“Design (interior and exterior), gearboxes, engines, in-car technology, you name it, while the amount of money and skills being poured into this brand is simply phenomenal.”
For instance, Pierre Leclercq, previously design chief for BMW’s M division, was responsible for the design of current Havals, while Ramon Ginah, previously Alfa Romeo’s chief interior designer, is also on board.
Its Research and Development (R&D) facility in the city of Baoding, meanwhile, is a veritable mini-city itself, with around 10 000 employees, and an investment cost of some five billion Chinese Yuan (around N$10-billion). “Yet Haval’s price point remains incredibly competitive. Since launch pricing has stayed static bar on the H1 whose pricing was increased by a mere N$5 000, and that now includes a three-year/45 000km service plan,” said Alberts.
“We want to show that we are here to build the brand and establish Haval as one of the leading SUV nameplates in SA in terms of both volume – and quality.”