No discussion of GM China’s performance in 2021 can start with any point other than the phenomenon that is the Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV. The tiny hatchback has come from nowhere to be the country’s best selling EV, far ahead of any other electric car.
SAIC-GM-Wuling is also showing every sign of knowing how to keep the momentum going. As demand took off, SGMW moved quickly to add production at a second plant (Liuzhou) in addition to the original place of build, Qingdao.
Higher priced editions such as the one picture above are also appearing and there has been a preview of a convertible.
How strong have sales been? In May, SGMW sent 26,742 examples to its dealers, the five-month total being 152,667. June might be different though: it has likely been a tough month for every OEM due to the semiconductor shortage.
This one model’s impact can be seen when it’s pointed out that combined wholesales for the large range of Wuling passenger vehicles were 260,013 between 1 January and 31 May. As noted in the previous report on GM’s new and next models, that was enough to make this GM China’s best brand last month, Buick having to make do with second.
Originally known only by its E5C project code, the Hong Guang Mini EV hit the market in July 2020. The little four-seater is 2,917 mm long with a 1,940 mm wheelbase.
As there is a bench rear seat where the boot would be, to carry cargo, the backrest has to be folded. As was the case with the only slightly longer Toyota iQ, the heads of those in the back are very close to the rear window. In the Japanese car’s case, that was partially mitigated by fitting twelve airbags as standard.
The motor’s outputs are just 20 kW and 85 Nm, with the standard battery having a capacity of 9.2 kWh or 13.8 kWh for an optional one. Weight is claimed to be 665 (9.2 kWh pack) or 705 kg (13.8 kWh).
SAIC-GM-Wuling’s Baojun brands’ various micro-EVs are closely related to this one. Also, as noted in the recent feature on that brand, those cars’ sales have tumbled since the Wuling arrived.
The Hong Guang Mini EV isn’t limited to China either: it is sold as the Dartz FreZe in Lithuania and certain other LHD European markets. Local firm Dartz commenced SKD assembly in April. Aside from badges and a few safety-related changes, the car is more or less identical to the one sold in China.
The convertible mentioned above will be launched in China in 2022. SGMW stated this in April as it premiered a prototype at the Shanghai motor show. There will also be a Dartz equivalent, to be sold as the FreZe Froggy. As with the originals, this one and the hatchback will likely be facelifted in 2023/2024 and replaced in 2026/2027.
SGMW is planning to give Wuling an even tinier electric car later this year. To be called Hong Guang Nano EV, the circa 2.5 m long vehicle looks very similar to the Baojun E200. That model dates to 2018. The motor is said to produce 24 kW.
Substantially larger and even newer than the Mini EV and Nano EV is the Zhengtu. Previewed as a sketch on SGMW’s WeChat account in January, production commenced soon after and sales during March. Some say the name can be ‘Journey‘ in English but Wuling already had another model called that.
Publicity images had the word ‘Fighting’ on the registration plate although that is a model grade, along with Pioneer. Fighting has also been translated as ‘Aggressive’.
This low-price pick-up is 5,105 mm long but only 1,640 mm wide and with a 2,000 mm bed. The standard engine is a 73 kW 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit.
SGMW probably won’t feel the need to facelift the Zhengtu until 2025 or 2026 if sales are strong. Under a different scenario, there could be two minor restyles, one in 2024 and another in 2027. Either way, we should expect a decade-long production cycle.
The next new Wuling doesn’t yet have an official name. SGMW disclosed a few details of a forthcoming nine-seat MPV earlier in June, adding that it would be revealed “very soon”. The new model will have sliding side doors, four rows of seats and a 2+2+2+3 layout. We can expect a nine-year life cycle, so a facelift in 2025.
After the Hong Guang Mini EV and Hong Guang series MPVs (see link to PLDB below), Wuling’s third best seller is the Victory.
In May last year, a new logo was revealed and displayed on a disguised MPV at the same event. The word ‘Victory’ could be seen as a model name on the tailgate. Chinese market sales of this 4,875 mm long six-seat model commenced five months later.
This SAIC R platform vehicle was launched in China with a standard 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine. It should have a mid-life facelift in 2024 and be replaced, most likely by an EV, in 2028 or 2029.
Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of Just Auto.
Future platform intelligence
More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of GlobalData’s Automotive Intelligence Center. That includes multiple Wuling models not mentioned in this report for reasons of space.
This was the second in a series of reports examining the current and future models for General Motors brands, Baojun having been the first. Next comes Wuling, followed by two features covering Chevrolet’s vast number of vehicles, then GMC & Hummer, Buick and Cadillac.