Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motors has been in South Africa for just over a year, and while it chose the Durban Motor Show to unveil some of its new and upcoming vehicles, it also revealed an all-new corporate identity.
The announcement signals the introduction of a logo bearing red writing and a metallic emblem to replace the existing blue and yellow identity. According to GMW managing director Henri Meistre this is inline with the manufacturer's global objectives.
Locally, the dealership network has been expanded from 17 at launch to 60 across the country, and GMW feels it is ready to deal with a fresh onslaught of new models.
First out of the blocks is the Hover crossover SUV available in both 4X2 and 4X4 versions. Voted China's SUV of the year in 2007, Hover is powered by a Mitsubishi-based 2.4-litre fuel injected petrol engine. The four-cylinder unit produces 93 kW at 5 250 r/min and peak torque of 195 Nm at 2 500 r/min.
Okay, it may still use a more traditional ladder frame chassis, but it is linked to an independent front suspension and a coil sprung multilink rear arrangement. Its appearance is neat too (with a very strong slant towards a certain Japanese product) and Hover's elevated ride height and rugged styling help a lot.
Quality, when compared to more established brands, is a contentious issue, although equipment levels are impressive. Hover comes with ABS and EBD, airbags, electric seats and an array of luxury features.
?It certainly is excellent value for money and unlike our initial range of affordable GWM vehicles, offers the consumer total luxury, with all the trimmings, in a totally up to date package,? Meistre says.
Hover prices are R197 990 for the 4X2 and R212 990 for the 4X4 versions. It is sold with a three-year/100 000 km warranty.
Furthermore, the company also chose to show off its brand-building Hover limo, which is based on the same mechanicals as the SUV but is a whole lot bigger inside.
While this exercise in Chinese excess is said to be under consideration for the local market, there is no word yet on pricing.
Something definitely worth looking out for, though, is the Peri hatchback, which looks remarkably similar to another Italian offering. But while it was shown in left-hand drive form at the Durban show, it will certainly be coming to South Africa.
A GWM executive assured it will be extremely well equipped for its segment and prices should start from about R90 000. Look out for it towards the end of 2008.
GWM is on a definite product offensive in South Africa and has revealed that the upcoming Beijing Motor Show should be watched with keen interest since several vehicles shown there will be destined for South Africa, too.
These include the Florid, a Yaris competitor, and an electric version of the Peri.