Great Wall Motors, China’s largest maker of SUVs, plans to deliver its first locally-built Haval H6s in Thailand later this month, marking another milestone in its global expansion drive.
The carmaker is taking orders from customers for its H6 hybrid electric vehicle from Tuesday, it said in a statement. This came after the carmaker put its 658,800 square metre (7.1 million sq ft) plant at Rayong, about 145km southeast of capital Bangkok, into operation.
The factory, which will focus on new-energy vehicle production, is capable of churning out 80,000 vehicles annually for a start. About 60 per cent will be sold in Thailand, the biggest market in Southeast Asia, while 40 per cent will be exported to other unspecified markets.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“Great Wall’s new factory in Thailand will bolster Chinese carmakers’ confidence in expanding abroad,” said Davis Zhang, a senior executive at Suzhou Hazardtex, an energy-solution provider to automotive and other manufacturing companies. Chinese carmakers, among the earliest to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, “are set to strengthen their presence around the globe.”
The Haval H6 HEV is a five-seater mid-size SUV with a starting price of US$30,990 in Thailand, placing it in the same market segment as Toyota’s RAV4 and Mazda’s CX5.
Great Wall said the plant in Rayong, the group’s second outside China after its investment in Russia in 2019, will also produce battery powered electric vehicles and conventional internal combustion engine cars.
Wei Jianjun, founder and chairman of Great Wall, said the Thai assembly line was “a milestone in the group’s advancement towards global smart production of vehicles.” Advanced intelligent equipment, including robots and computer-controlled systems, have been installed in the workshops to improve efficiency, he added.
Thailand is the largest car market in Asean. The country recorded sales of more than 792,000 vehicles in 2020, while the next biggest market Indonesia had sales of about 530,000, according to data compiled by Statista.
Beijing hopes its domestic car firms can grasp core technologies in the new-energy vehicle sector with its top producers securing a foothold in the global arena.
Great Wall reported sales of 45,000 Ora Hei Mao-branded new-energy vehicles in 2020. Only Tesla’s Model 3, Hongguang Mini EV by General Motors’ SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile venture, and GAC Group’s EV brand Aion S had generated bigger sales.
China’s smart electric carmakers Xpeng and NIO, dubbed as rivals to Tesla, are also making inroads into European markets where green cars are well received amid growing awareness in green energy and climate change.
Both start-ups are exporting their cars to Norway, a country where pure electric cars make up more than half of overall sales.
More from South China Morning Post: