Back in the early 2000s to the late 2010s, buying a Chinese car was like playing Russian Roulette, you didn’t know if the car you got was good or bad, mainly because a lot of these marques were on the younger side of the spectrum, meaning they were unproven in the market, and their products were likewise mechanically unproven and tested in the real world.
That was then, however, and a lot of the cars now are manufactured to a higher standard, with many cars being durable and reliable enough to go the distance while still maintaining their quality, and having parts readily available from the dealership. So the question is, are Chinese cars finally worth investing in and trusting in for the long haul? Here are a few reasons why it’s different now, compared to before.
The main complaint of the younger brands before was the parts availability. Back then, the logistics of these brands were not as fleshed out as they are now. Communication and supply lines were still being built and a lot of the efficiency that we enjoy now wasn’t present back then. A lot of developments were made through the years, and now you can expect parts to arrive in about a week’s time or 7 days thanks to either air freight or efficient shipping lanes. Geely boasts that most of its parts will have a lead time of about 7 days, meanwhile other brands that source their cars from China, such as Volkswagen Philippines with their Santana, Lavida, and Lamando, all enjoy a good amount of parts availability thanks to the stocks that the Ayala corporation keeps just in case.
Back then, you’d have to wait months and it’ll also be like rolling the dice. Meanwhile, there are even online marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada that will organize all the logistics for you and bring the package right to your doorstep. In other words, car parts may take a bit longer, however, some brands are very established or smart, with establishments and logistical connections to ensure that your car spare parts arrive at the dealership in a timely manner.
One of the pitfalls of most Chinese brands that were starting out in the past was the dealership network and the necessary capital that was needed in order to create a network of dealerships and service centers that consumers can rely on. You need establishments and a stock of parts to keep the business fed, plus you also need to make sure that you have good people holding down the fort and at the helm whenever a customer needs his or her vehicle serviced or repaired. There is a lot that goes into managing a dealership, and good leadership is very important.
Instead of small-time corporations, big-time players are taking the reigns of these Chinese brands, fully equipped with the manpower, real estate, and experience in the industry. Looking at some of the more popular brands in the country, Geely, MG, and Chery all have backing from some of the biggest and most well-known corporations in the industry. Geely's parent corp is known more for its partnership with Mitsubishi Fuso, however, Geely became the brand that Sojitz G Auto Philippines (SGAP), put its money behind. At first, Geely's dealership network wasn't that wide, with just one dealership in North EDSA working for them since the start. This, however, is now different as Geely has added quite a few more dealerships especially in the more provincial areas in the country.
MG is brought in by The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI), which brings in American brand Chevrolet. For a time, Chevy vehicles and MG vehicles were both serviced in the same places, then MG dealerships cropped up here and there specifically for MG vehicles complete with the front facade and interior design. The rapid expansion of MG in the Philippines was helped along by the dealer network. Also similar to this are brands like Chery and Maxus that both combine their existing dealerships with other brands and places the other cars there to create a shared space. For example, Maxus dealerships are shared with Kia or Volkswagen and even KTM motorcycles. Meanwhile, Chery Auto, under United Asia Automotive Group. Inc (UAAGI), brings in Foton, and Chery. UAAGI already has a substantial network of dealers thanks to the success of the Foton brand, and Chery gets to enjoy this network by joining the two brands under one roof.
Quality is on-point
The level of quality in Chinese cars nowadays are pretty much on par with the Japanese, American, or even European brands in the world. Chinese manufacturing has matured to a point where even some big brands are recognizing the quality and workmanship of Chinese automobiles, so much so that they are relying on a lot of them for the manufacture of their products or quite a few major components.
In other cases, Chinese manufacturers like Geely actually own a European brand that requires cars to be built to a high standard. With the investment in quality designs for vehicle platforms and fit and finish, Geely was able to trickle down its investments to the more affordable sect of the market. Even Chery was able to up its game from about 10 years ago. The Tiggo lineup of crossovers drives and performs far off from what its cars once were back in the day. The interiors of Chery’s cars are much more solid and even the chassis have come a long way from before. Meanwhile, MG, Volkswagen, and some Kia models come out of the factory with the same standards that are approved by European brands. We're not sure, about what exactly the brands say, but if you put your badge on a product, it should pass standards.
It's one thing to get someone to buy a vehicle, but it is another to make their ownership experience as trouble-free as possible. Servicing is an important part of the car ownership experience, and sadly, the initial systems for aftersales services weren't as good as they are now. Currently, there are a lot of dealerships that are well-versed with the product that they sell. Experienced hands are handling the service and maintenance of these new brands, allowing consumers to better levels of trust. That being said, as long as a trusted name
It's not just servicing that helps make or break the experience, but also the warranties or guarantees that these cars come with. On paper at least, the best warranty in the Philippines actually belongs to Chery Auto, with their 3-year service plan, 5-year general vehicle warranty, and 10-year powertrain warranty. It's hard to beat, and there are other brands like Geely that also push the 5-year mark in terms of duration, but to bundle that with a warranty that will go beyond the normal warranty for the engine is quite a bold claim. UAAGI really want consumers to trust the Chery brand by letting them know that they believe in the product that they sell. As long as the commitments are met, the long warranty just serves to sweeten the deal even further.
So are Chinese cars worth buying?
Well, that depends on what you value. If you are on a budget but want to be able to maximize every single centavo of what you are willing to spend, then perhaps it would be good to expand your options to Chinese automobiles in 2021. We’re also shocked to see how aggressive these new players are, especially with regard to aftersales, servicing, and pricing.
Then there are the likes of Geely, while they do come with a long 5-year warranty, the quality and performance of their models are quite astonishing for the price point. Cars like the Geely Okavango could be priced higher, but aren’t making it an exceptional value for a 7-seater. Loads of features plus loads of quality rolled into one aesthetically pleasing package. Not to mention you’re getting what is essentially a car that is built up to the standards of Volvo with the quality and design to match. Even the most affordable of the bunch, the Coolray, will give even some European brands a run for their money.
Chery is a brand looking to gain a larger foothold and shed its past under a new banner. The Tiggo 8 is an exceptional value because you get a midsize crossover, which is essentially the size of a Mazda CX-9 which is about double the price. Sure you get more refinements and driver-focused engineering in the Mazda, but that's the premium you pay for a carl like that. The Tiggo 8 simply has a price-to-metal ratio that is pretty compelling.
Meanwhile, you have other brands like Maxus, MG, and Volkswagen, under the SAIC banner with standout models that are affordable, like the MG ZS that rose in popularity back in 2019. MG did well thanks to the fact that it was able to achieve stellar sales figures thanks to the package that is presented. An affordable crossover under a million with good marketing and other standard features from a brand that has a sense of style, even if it is inspired by a few other brands.
At the end of the day, these cars are worth what people are willing to pay for. While we cannot speak for everyone, we cannot deny that China is making a scene in the Philippine automotive industry, causing other brands to rethink their strategies like Ford with the introduction of the Ford Territory, however with the pieces already set by these industry giants, it up to the Chinese manufacturers to play the right cards at the right time. That being said, with a great network of dealers, committed people, and a great aftersales arrangement behind a product that is of quality, it's hard to say that a Chinese car isn't worth the money, especially when that price tag is pretty low.