We spoke to Kaushik Ganguly, Director – Product Planning & Strategy of Great Wall Motors India at the Auto Expo on the electric vehicle plans of the company.
So, you have showcased the Ora R1, Ora iQ and there’s another model on your website, the R2. Will you bring these models to India?
Kaushik: The Ora brand is there in China presently but we are repositioning the brand and would be called GWM EV. In India, we would definitely launch the GWM EV brand after the Haval SUV brand. In fact, the Haval SUV brand will also have a lot of electrification and the powertrain will not be restricted to conventional powertrains. The distinction between these two brands will be that Haval brand will be purely for SUVs and whatever is a non-SUV body type pure electric vehicle will come under the GWM EV brand.
As far India plans for the GWM EV, we won’t talk about the specific models right now that we are considering because we are a little far away from that. But I can tell you this that we will consider EVs for mobility needs, for shared mobility applications and EVs for private customers. For the private customers, whatever EV that we would bring out would be a very high-end EV. For the mobility solutions, the focus would be on providing solutions to the application needs like interior space, range of the battery, which are the determining factors. We would not focus on the price disruption but focus on technology disruption.
You can also see one of the EVs going around here that is actually a fully autonomous vehicle. Vision 2025 is an electric SUV and the other model is called Concept H, which is a plug-in hybrid. In the Vision 2025, interestingly, you won’t find a charging stand next to it because it has wireless charging. There’s another R1 model that is going around, which is an autonomous car and it has Level 4 autonomous technology.
So when we say EV, we have all range of EVs and we have lot more of EVs coming up. We have kind of just started on EVs in a way. The focus is on providing smart mobility solutions and whatever that is needed for that, and not being the cheapest at all. If we could be the cheapest after packing in so much technology, we would be happy.
You have micro EVs segment in China. The R1 has a proper range of over 300 km, has a proper output of over 30 hp. It’s a complete electric car with the safety features and all the features that one would expect from a regular family hatchback, for the price of Rs 6 to Rs 8 lakh, with the subsidy.
Kaushik: The price, even in China, depends on the policy. Price also depends on the supply chain. In China, the supply chain for EVs is very strong because it is the world’s biggest EV market. That might not happen in other countries. That’s one. Second is even with this R1 model, there are two variants available, we have one at 300 km and one at 350 km range. Though it looks small, the concept behind this vehicle was that it’s an exciting kind of vehicle with the design and colour combination. It’s a city vehicle with the parking and congestion problems it solves. At the same time, it has a large wheelbase, which basically means the space inside is not compromised.
Is the R1 under consideration for India?
Kaushik: It is under consideration but ultimately whether we will have it or not I wouldn’t comment on that. So, when we start considering the models for India all the present models will be taken into account.
You have the Haval H series brand (Haval H1 to Haval H9, with coupe-cross variants), then the F series (F5 & F7). It’s a melting pot of models!
Kaushik: The reason why we presented these models at the expo is not to have a kind of test waters or whether we should bring this particular model to India. The only basic philosophy was to tell India about who we are. Whether it’s the SUV here or the non-SUV EV, these are purely representative of who we are, what are our capabilities, what kind of design philosophy we follow, etc.
I want to know more about the iQ. From an Indian perspective, the iQ is a high-riding sedan and definitely a mould breaker. We have Volvo S60 Cross Country but I can’t think of another sedan cross. It’s a very interesting concept.
Kaushik: One of the reasons why these two particular models of EVs (R1 and iQ) are here is because these are the two existing models in China. We also have a very exciting line of EVs coming up. In fact, in China GWM has a joint venture with BMW. It’s a separate company called Spotlight and the understanding is that the company will develop Mini electric for BMW and also Great Wall gets a model out of that in the same platform, technology and manufacturing. The plant was inaugurated in November 2019 and as part of that venture, GWM will be getting new technology and platforms out of that.
Our strength lies not only in the R&D and manufacturing EVs. We go a little deeper and we manufacture batteries as well. Battery R&D are also happening and there’s always this continuously evolving chemistry for the battery. We are working towards solid-state batteries as well in China. We also manufacture lots of e-drivetrains ourselves. We also have an interest in investing in a Cobalt mine to secure the raw materials for the battery. That’s how the Great Wall operate.
The philosophy is either we get into it or we don’t. That will hold for India as well. We just launched our brands in India and displayed our models in India. We are looking at a very long term view. We are not in a hurry. We are not chasing some market share and the usual aspects that people talk about. We are focused on establishing the brand and one by one the brands will come, and then we will talk of how we will proceed.
You have a PHEV with Concept H. PHEV is a very expensive proposition and you don’t get many benefits for it in India. What is the idea for showcasing the product here?
Kaushik: The PHEV Concept H is not specifically for the Indian market at all but for the global market. Secondly, the whole idea between what we are showcasing is to let people know of all technological capabilities. In terms of our powertrain roadmap, we are considering various levels of electrification. There are spaces available for hybrid electrics, plug-in hybrids and there are certain applications especially in the case of SUVs, where there are people who would prefer a plug-in hybrid over an electric. There are situations like that.
For example, in the US the plug-in hybrid has a different kind of market. India is still in a very evolving and nascent stage in terms of automobiles per se. So I think we have lots of exciting things to look ahead in India.
You not only have the Haval SUV brand. You have a range of pickups, which have been getting better with each generation and perhaps the next generation pickups would be able to compete with the Hiluxes and Navaras of the world. Is that something that you would consider for India?
Kaushik: We are not considering pickups for India because, in our understanding of the Indian market, pickup in the private segment is a very niche kind of a product. Even in the largest pickup markets in the world like the United States, Canada or Thailand, pickups are used for a reason. In the US or Canada, people do things on their own, so they carry a whole lot of stuff on their own, which we do not do in India. In Thailand, there’s a whole lot of transportation that happens in pickups, which we don’t have. Thankfully India doesn’t allow that for regulations and it’s actually quite dangerous.
We don’t see the pickup market growing in India at the moment and we are not considering the pickup brand. If the market so demands later, we always have the option to go for it.
When is Great Wall Motors launching in India?
Kaushik: Haval will be launched in 2021 and the GWM EV would be launched either by the end of 2021 or early 2022.