China’s Great Wall plans new electric, smart vehicle brand

GWM plans to launch a new standalone brand for electric and smart vehicles.
GWM plans to launch a new standalone brand for electric and smart vehicles.

China's Great Wall Motor group plans to launch a new stand-alone brand for electric and smart vehicles, sources familiar with the plan said, as car makers in world's biggest car market pursue growth in the new segment.

Inspired by the market success of electric vehicle leader Tesla Inc, as well as Chinese start-ups Nio Inc, Li Auto and Xpeng Inc, several Chinese car makers this year announced plans for new electric brands, mostly to offer more expensive products than their mass-market lines.

Conventional Chinese car makers such as SAIC Motor, Changan Automobile and GAC are seeking to move their products up the value chain as China's economic planners push new technologies.

Baoding-based Great Wall will launch a new stand-alone brand, internally coded as “SL project”, for electric and smart vehicles, which will be priced higher than existing products, two people, who declined to be named, said.

The new brand, the name of which sources declined to reveal, will include sport utility vehicles (SUV) and sedans, which will be battery electric vehicles or extended range electric vehicles that allow drivers to charge their cars with electricity or petrol.

Asked about the plan, a Great Wall spokesperson said “the big tide has come, we will join the game”, without elaborating.

Great Wall currently has the affordable electric Ora brand and is building an EV factory with BMW in China.

To compete with rival Geely, Great Wall has added the P-series pickup truck and off-road SUV models to its range. In the first 11 months, it sold almost a million vehicles.

The new brand is Great Wall's second attempt to crack the premium segment. In 2016, it launched its WEY brand for more upscale models, though it has struggled to generate sales growth.

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