Cape Town - If you perhaps watched The Expendables 3 on DStv this weekend you might’ve spotted the unfamiliar looking matt black SUV used by the hero’s in one of the many rescue scenes.
It’s called the Haval H8 and its appearance in a Hollywood blockbuster, shortly after its official launch in 2013, was a first for a Chinese car brand.
The timing of the screening was fortuitous, as Great Wall Motors (GWM) of China on Friday (27 May 2016) announced it will be taking full control of its South African subsidiary, now renamed to Haval Motors South Africa.
Haval – probably named after the cryptographic hash function developed in 1992 – is the premium sub-brand of GWM in China (much like Infiniti is to Nissan, Lexus to Toyota, and Genesis to Hyundai) and is to be locally introduced as part of GWM’s international expansion strategy.
Very soon, it seems, since the Haval product pages are already live on the GWM South Africa website – complete with brochures on the different models, with descriptions and full specifications...
GWM has been very quiet since the introduction of the Steed 6 and revamped Steed 5 in 2014 and a small update to the M4 earlier in 2016 but seemingly a lot of behind-the-scenes work was done.
According to GWM China’s statement the decision to take control of its local subsidiary “confirms the importance attached to the long-term future of the GWM brand in the region”.
The previous distributor, Great Wall Motors, commenced distribution of GWM vehicles in 2007 and has successfully established a strong national dealer network of over 60 dealerships and sold over 50 000 vehicles into the South African market over that period.
It is Haval SA’s intention to continue to maintain and grow GWM's position as the most successful Chinese brand in Southern Africa, the statement reads.
Charles Zhao, managing director of Haval Motors SA, said: “The South African market plays an important part in our international expansion strategy and going forward we will continue to distribute vehicles, offer parts and service support as well as administer warranties through the already established dealer network.”
In China the Haval brand sells four model ranges – the H2, H6, H8 and H9 – but for its international onslaught (Haval is already present in eight countries excepting China and South Africa) it seems three derivatives will be offered.
Initially Haval was but a model name within GWM, and we actually saw the first derivative here in the form of the GWM Hover, launched in 2011 and upgraded in 2012 under the designation H5.
Another update, by when it was called GWM Haval H5 overseas, followed in 2013, and the next year an entry-level City version before the model was suddenly discontinued.
The GWM H6, a larger model based on a unibody platform, was first shown at the 2012 Durban Motor Show and imported from 2013. It was updated late in 2014 but in 2015 disappeared from GMW’s model list.
Of the models now mooted for introduction the Haval H8 is probably the most well-known. Used in the world renowned Dakar Rally purpose-built H8’s finished in the top ten three times in five years.
The H8 has a troubled history in China, though. First introduced in 2013 (when Haval also became a brand name in its own right) it was beset by problems and had to be completely redeveloped before being re-launched in 2015.
The latest version, powered by a GW4C20 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 160kW/324Nm, is set to take on mid-sized SUV’s such as Hyundai’s Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento and Mahindra XUV500.
Driving through a ZF 6-speed auto transmission it will be available in two-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive form, with equipment such as xenon headlights and LED taillights, colour-adjustable ambient lighting, leather trim and rear DVD entertainment screens.
Haval knows the 2.0-litre turbo lacks the kind of grunt desired by many Australians.
To address this, it’s hopeful of bolstering the H8 line-up with two additional engines by the end of the year: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, and a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol – both of which promise to deliver significantly more pulling power.
The H8 will probably be followed by the larger H9 SUV – Haval will reveal further details during a media briefing in December.
The SUV has endured a rocky start in its home market, where the company suspended sales of the H8 following quality concerns, customer complaints and less-than-stellar reviews.
History of Haval
Haval was invented by Yuliang Zheng, Josef Pieprzyk, and Jennifer Seberry in 1992.
This strategic decision is confirmation of the importance attached to the long-term future of the GWM brand in the region and is a very positive factor in ensuring the sustainability of the GWM brand.
The previous distributor, Great Wall Motors SA commenced distribution of GWM vehicles in 2007 and has successfully established a strong national dealer network of over 60 dealerships and sold over 50 000 vehicles into the South African market over that period.
It is the intention of the new distributor to continue to maintain and grow GWM's position as the most successful Chinese brand in Southern Africa.
Charles Zhao, managing director of Haval Motors SA, said: "The South African market plays an important part in our International Expansion Strategy and going forward we will continue to distribute vehicles, offer parts and service support as well as administer warranties through the already established dealer network."
In support of its global strategy, the parent company GWM China will introduce their highly successful Haval brand into South Africa in the near future through Haval Motors South Africa.
It is interesting to note that in 2015 GWM China sold 850 000 vehicles globally, thus retaining its position as the Best-selling pick-up for 18 consecutive years and SUV for 13 consecutive years in China, competing against all other brands.
GWM will continue with its massive investment in Research & Development, which has resulted in the sales success illustrated by the huge sales achieved by GWM in China and is a reward for the $1.5 billion investment spent over the last few years on Research & Development.
Length X width X height(mm) - 4335x1814x1695
Wheel base(mm) 2560
Front/rear wheel track(mm) 1525/1520
Minimum ground clearance(mm) 184
Complete vehicle kerb mass(kg) 1495
Engine model GW4G15B
Rated power/engine speed(kW/rpm) 110/5600
Maximum torque/engine speed(Nm/rpm) 210/2200-4500
Emission standard - EuroV/EuroV+
Transmission - 6MT
Length X width X height(mm) - 4806x1975x1794
Wheel base(mm) - 2915
Wheel track (mm) - 1647 (front)/1649 (rear)
Minimum ground clearance (mm) - 197 (unload)
Complete vehicle kerb mass (kg) - 2130 (four-wheel drive)
Engine model - GW4C20
Displacement (L) - 2.0
Maximum power (kW/rpm) - 160/5500
Maximum torque (Nm/rpm) - 324/2000-4000
Transmission - 6AT