In a first for the Indian market, Great Wall Motors, one of China's biggest automotive companies, is looking to make its bow here with a hybrid version of a SUV.
The launch is slated for next year.
The company is actively exploring the idea of launching a plug-in hybrid version of its SUV along with petrol and diesel variants.
The SUV will be launched under the Haval brand.
"Under Haval (brand), it will be only SUV and no other body type. SUVs are now 28 percent of the market and they have gained 5 percentage points share in the last financial year. We are also exploring the possibility of launching the first SUV with electric powertrain. So we are discussing if we can bring in a plug-in hybrid version alongside a fossil-fuel driven SUV," Hardeep S Brar, Director (marketing and sales), Great Wall Motors, told Moneycontrol.
Great Wall Motors had showcased a number of products at the India Auto Expo in February, including SUVs and compact electric cars. While Brar declined to specify the SUV segment it will target for its debut market sources say that the company could target the premium full-size SUV segment which is dominated by the Toyota Fortuner.
Brar, however, said that India could expect one new model at least once a year in the next five years all of which will be targeted at the SUV and electric vehicle category.
"We have not yet announced which model is it going to be for India debut. As of now there is one confirmed product for India but we are looking to launch one new product every nine months to one year over 3-5 years. We will take a call on diesel later on where we will have to consider what percentage of the market diesel really is and if we feel electrification is a bigger thing going forward then we may focus more on electric," said Brar.
Great Wall Motors grabbed headlines in India when it snapped up the now defunct General Motors plant in Talegaon near Pune for an undisclosed amount. The plant has an annual production capacity of 165,000 units a year in addition to 160,000 units powertrain manufacturing capacity per year.
"We are likely to take over the plant in the third quarter of this fiscal. And there is no delay of any kind in doing so. Sometime is 2021 is what we are looking at for starting the launch of the products in India. There is no change in plans despite the challenges," said Brar.
Great Wall is investing close to $1 billion in India in a phased manner. Some of this is already spent on setting up the research and development (R&D) centre in Bengaluru back in 2016. That R&D centre took the lead in building software, a lot of which was about autonomous cars.
"Now, we will be investing in R&D for development of cars for the Indian market," said Brar.
As the company is in its initial phase of setting up operations it is looking at hiring several key personnel at senior positions. Brar himself has worked with Maruti Suzuki, Volkswagen, Nissan and General Motors in India."We have the HR strategy in place. We will be hiring them in phases when the requirement arises. We already have 10 people on board and the process is on," Brar added.