We speak to Hardeep Singh Brar, Director, Marketing and Sales, GWM India at the launch of the Great Wall brand in India.
Congratulations on the launch of the Great Wall brand in India. Tell us a bit about the brand.
Great Wall Motor (GWM) was established in 1984. Here, we’ve brought in two brands – Haval, which specialises in SUVs, and the other is GWM EV. We are looking at an approximate investment of $1 billion over the next few years in the manufacturing process. We are in talks with General Motors for its plant in Talegaon. Our R&D centre in Bengaluru has been operational since 2016, and a lot of work has been done there with regard to our international models and to understand the Indian market. The third aspect is our supplier base, both in China and India, because a good level of localisation is very important. The last piece, of course, is the marketing & sales network.
When can we expect a product launch in India?
We are planning to launch next year, sometime in 2021.
For how long have you been looking at the Indian market?
We have been evaluating the Indian market for about five years now.
What do you need to do to prepare the Talegaon plant?
The current capacity of the Talegaon plant is 1,37,000 units, according to General Motors. But of course, once you bring in new products you need to change the line, jigs, tools, and fixtures. In terms of overall infrastructure, though, I’d say we have about 80 per cent ready and 20 per cent that needs to be worked upon.
How will Haval cars in India be different from others?
There are four aspects that we are focussing on. First, of course, is design. Our breakthrough designs are futuristic, and this is important because the design is the first aspect of a vehicle that a customer evaluates. The second is the performance of cars – we will make world-class engines and transmissions. The third focus area is the ‘premium feel’ of interiors and exteriors of our cars. Lastly, we are bringing a host of intelligent safety features, including passive and active safety features.
What level of localisation are you looking at?
I think it is too early to talk about the level of localisation.
Have you decided on the models that will enter our market?
We are aiming to cover every possible SUV segment.
Do you think a Coupé-SUV could be a good differentiator in India?
I think we’ll move ahead based on what the consumer wants. In terms of evolution, a conventional buyer still wants a traditional, high-riding SUV and not really a Coupé type. The Auto Expo is a great platform to showcase multiple models, and it is the ideal ground to get consumer feedback.
How do you see the EV market evolving in India?
There are various aspects involved. First, an EV requires a minimum of 250 – 300kms of driving range based on Indian conditions. The second is a sound charging infrastructure, which should be easily accessible. Then there is the cost of ownership. The government is working hard to make EV adoption mainstream via subsidy options, but the initial cost difference between an EV and a conventional car is still too high – at about 70 – 80 per cent. And the fourth aspect is the localisation of parts and batteries.
Is there a plan to manufacture batteries in India?
We are genuinely contemplating this plan because we already have a battery manufacturing plant in China. But right now, it’s too early to talk about it.
MG has used its British heritage to its advantage in India. Will it be difficult for a purely Chinese automaker to woo Indian customers?
At the core of every automotive organisation is the product. We recently showed our products to our dealers, and they found the look, finish, and quality of the cars top-level.
What is the most difficult aspect of entering a new market?
I believe in the four Ps of marketing. The first P – Product – is about the relevance of the product and the consistency of product launches. The second P – Promotion – is all about building the brand. The third P – Place – is essentially the network. The final P – Price – includes the overall ownership cost and the brand value a customer walks away with.
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