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Great Wall still looking to US launch

Global model: Great Wall’s all-new P-Series Pickup was designed with western markets in mind.

Autoliv safety deal indicates trade war has not skittled Great Wall’s US launch plan

10 Oct 2019

GREAT Wall Motors (GWM) is forging ahead with plans to launch its products in North America, despite the unresolved trade war between China and the United States.


The company has just signed a contract with Autoliv for joint road safety evaluation studies in North America “as a strong support for Great Wall Motors to enter the American market”.


The company, which sells vehicles under the Great Wall, Haval and Wei brands, did not say when it intended launch its products in the US, but GWM executives have said in interviews that they want to start sales there in 2021.


They have also indicated a preference for exporting completely built up vehicles from China to the US, rather than making them in North American factories, tariffs permitting.


GWM’s recently launched P-Series Pickup has been designed and engineered as a global product, meaning it has been developed with the US and Canada in mind.


At the ute’s launch in China in August, GWM boldly stated that its target for the P-Series – the successor for the Steed ute – is to make it a top-three seller in the global pick-up market, with a projected 200,000 sales a year.


The company named Toyota and Ford as rivals in the pick-up segment, presumably meaning it has benchmarked its ute against the HiLux and Ranger.


One of the biggest challenges for Chinese manufacturers in western markets is the perception of poor crash safety – a reputation exemplified by the Great Wall Steed ute’s two-star rating in the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).


GWM has spent a fortune on developing new safety testing facilities at its Haval research and development base in Baoding, China, to rectify this.


Now it has shown it is taking no chances by bringing Autoliv – a world leader in automotive crash safety systems such as airbags and seat belts – on board to prepare it for the rigours of the American market where a variety of organisations, official and independent, will put Great Wall vehicles through the mill.


According to a statement, GWM and Autoliv will establish a test centre called the North American Safety Evaluation Joint Research Laboratory to “conduct relevant research for the North America market based on both sides’ technological and testing resources in the world, and support the implementation of Great Wall Motors’ strategy in accordance with the laws and regulations of various road safety authorities”.


GWM has used Australia as a testing ground for its western market roll out, firstly through independent importer Ateco Automotive and, since 2015, a factory owned subsidiary based in Melbourne.


While the new P-Series Pickup is already rolling out of the company’s new Chongqing factory to Chinese customers, its Australian launch is not expected until later next year.


Although a variety of powertrains including diesel, full electric and even hydrogen fuel cell have been mooted for the ute, the launch vehicle gets a typical 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission.


A strong suite of safety gear is listed, including autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist – musts for five-star safety ratings in Europe and Australia.

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