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August 24, 2022updated 25 Aug 2022 11:49am

How General Motors is making China’s Wuling global

What's next for SGMW's Wuling, an increasingly successful brand in China and multiple other countries?

By Glenn Brooks

Number one in the Chinese market for LCVs, Wuling is also incredibly strong in passenger vehicles. This report looks at certain existing models and also what’s coming next.

Although we tend to think of GM, SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group’s SGMW Liuzhou-based joint venture being centred in China, last year some 140,000 Wuling vehicles were exported to forty-plus countries. What’s more, the JV is expanding its Indonesian manufacturing base.

Recently, the Wuling Air EV debuted not in China but in Jakarta. What’s more, the tiny electric hatchback (pictured) is the first EV to be sold by SGMW outside China. PT SGMW Motor Indonesia built the first examples earlier in August.

While not all details have been revealed, the Air EV will reportedly be available with standard- and long-wheelbase bodies, each one having just two doors. The extended wheelbase model will have a window behind the doors. Length and wheelbase for the made-in-Indonesia model are 2,974 and 2,010 mm.

There have also been reports claiming that this model will become available in India during 2023 as the MG E230, equipped with a 20 kWh battery. SAIC GM Wuling’s Indonesian manufacturing base could be the source of cars for the Indian market. And as for the life cycle, that should be seven to eight years, meaning a facelift in 2025 or 2026.

During the same month that the Air EV was being revealed, the parent company launched a different new Wuling in China. The Jiachen (or Jia Chen) is a 4,785 mm long MPV/minivan. Power comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine linked to six-speed manual and CVT transmission options. Both 2+2+2 and 2+3+2 seating configurations are available depending on the trim level.

The Jiachen uses SAIC’s R platform, which means front-wheel drive. The model should be manufactured for seven years with a facelift in 2026. Some form of electrification will also surely become available in a few years’ time.

Wuling’s top seller naturally remains the Hong Guang Mini EV, its 196,320 retail sales during the first half of 2022 accounting for a sizeable share of the brand’s performance. Not only is the little EV easily China’s best selling car but it also outsold the world’s best known EV – the Tesla Model 3 (64,239) – by more than 132,000 units.

The SGMW division ended H1 in fifth position, its 437,334 deliveries keeping it well ahead of next placed Geely (386,855) and Changan (385,898). Above Wuling were BYD (583,815), Honda (661,760), Toyota (802,224) and VW (934,714).

More than two years from its home market launch, can anything stop the Hong Guang Mini EV? The cheap and wildly popular car is 2,917 mm long with a 1,940 mm wheelbase. 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) or 705 kg (13.8 kWh battery).

SGMW keeps adding special editions to maintain the car’s popularity. Not only that but in May, a third party revealed the Hong Guang Mini EV Retro Car. There have been suggestions that a limited production run is coming. And let’s not forget the Mini EV Convertible, another niche derivative.

A longer hatchback is also coming, according to information leaked by an SGMW insider. Both length and wheelbase will be up by 70 mm to 2,997 and 2,010 mm. The stretch allows more space in the back for legs but it also means a bigger battery is possible. This will reportedly be a 26.5 kWh pack, increasing the claimed NEDC range to as many as 280 km. The motor is also new, now producing 30 kW. It remains unclear if the L version is to be an addition to the line-up or an update: there will also be a minor facelift.

Another future car is probably also going to be launched by year-end. As yet there is no official name for what will be a B segment hatchback and sedan series.

Interestingly, in images that appeared on the web earlier in 2022, both cars sported Wuling badging in some shots and Chevrolet logos in others. Also, the fuel filler wasn’t on the left side as is the norm for almost all vehicles from Asia-based OEMs but rather (in a LHD car) on the passenger side. This suggests that the architecture could be SAIC’s R.

We’re probably also looking at some time in the coming months for the debut of a small SUV. Unlike certain others, this one will be a global vehicle, meaning it could be sold under different brand names (e.g. Chevrolet) in certain countries. The Xing Chi should be positioned below the Xing Chen/Asta.

Speaking of the Xing Chen (or Xingcheng), a 4.6 m long crossover launched a year ago this month, a Xing Chen HEV has just gone on sale, Wuling’s first hybrid. It is also known that a Xing Chen PHEV will be added in 2023. In some countries, the Xing Chen is the Wuling Asta so this could also apply for the HEV and PHEV.

This is the second in a series of reports which examine certain current and future General Motors vehicles. It follows a recent look at Baojun.

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