Ever since China opened its market to the world, Chinese technology and manufacturing continues to progress, which catapulted them into the limelight of consumer products. Mobile phones, fashion products, musical instruments, and even cars – before you know it, everything’s already made in China.
However, the stigma against Chinese products (in general) is rampant all over the world and here in the Philippines – it was and still is. The story is the same with their cars. Aside from the outdated technology back then, early Chinese passenger cars that were locally sold 8 years ago weren’t visually appealing. Moreover, quality wasn’t at par with their western and Japanese counterparts.
But that’s already a thing of the past.
Today, Chinese cars have evolved into competitive machines that are beautifully designed, carefully crafted, and can go head-to-head against other mainstream brands that populate the market. This is because Chinese car companies acquired designers from their western counterparts, such as Leonardo Fioravanti, formerly of Ferrari Daytona, who joined Beijing Automotive Industry Co.’s (BAIC).
Other notable acquisitions include Peter Horbury, formerly of Volvo, who is now the Senior Vice President of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, in charge of design. Former Mini chief designer Gert Hildebrand also joined Qoros Auto, a joint venture between Chery Automobile Co. and Israel Corp. With these designers leading the way and with continuous investment in research and development, Chinese cars are now a lot better than what they were before.
Currently, there are 12 Chinese car brands in the Philippines, namely: BAIC, BYD, Chery, FAW, FOTON, Geely, Great Wall, Haima, JMC, King Long, Lifan, and MG. Among these brands, there are 4 who stand out in the passenger car department, especially with their design and build quality.
BAIC vehicles are distributed under Bayan Automotive Industries Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Universal Motors Corporation (UMC). Their lineup ranges from sedans to SUV – a wide array of choices for buyers who have different needs.
Their latest vehicle, the BAIC M20, is a 7- to 8-seater vehicle (depending on the variant) who goes up against the Toyota Avanza and Suzuki Ertiga in the mini-MPV segment. It boasts a generous legroom inside its cabin up to the rear seats, while having features such as rear parking sensors and LCD touchscreen head unit.
Being an expert with battery technology, Build Your Dreams (BYD) is one of China’s frontrunner when it comes to green technology – meaning, they build electric and hybrid cars. They are like the Tesla of Asia, sans the relatively high price tag. Their involvement in green tech caught the attention of the American investor Warren Buffett, who reportedly bought 10% of the company, which strengthens the brand’s place in the market.
As for their cars, BYD has a wide selection of cars, including the plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) Qin – a 4-door sports sedan that packs a combined 330 hp, allowing it to reach 100 km/h from complete standstill in 5.9 seconds. Dare to race?
Haima vehicles may not be visible in Metro Manila, but they are selling well in nearby provinces. Distributed under the Laus Group, they have dealerships in San Fernando and Dau in Pampanga; Baguio; Baliwag in Bulacan; Calasiao and Urdaneta in Pangasinan; and Bataan.
Although they have commercial vehicles, their passenger cars are not to be ignored. The Haima s5 is a compact crossover that’s visually striking and packed with features such as 360-degree rear vision camera, 7-inch LCD head unit with DVD player, and keyless entry system – all without breaking the bank.
FOTON, under the distributorship of United Asia Automotive Group Inc. (UAAGI), has already cemented its reputation when it comes to the commercial vehicle segment. However, they also ventured into producing passenger vehicles that are “up for the challenge.”
From 7- to 8-seater minivans to 15- to 16-seater vans to tough pickup trucks to classy SUVs, FOTON passenger cars are not only for leisure purposes, but can also serve as workhorses when needed. The Toplander, their midsize SUV, is a 7-seater that has features that can go head-to-head with the likes of the Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Montero Sport, while beating them with its SRP.
Truth is, Chinese cars aren’t perfect – however, isn’t that just like any other car brand? We believe that great successful marques, regardless of their nationality, start from small beginnings. You’ll never know, in 5 or 10 years, the stigma with Chinese cars may be gone, just like with South Korean vehicles. Gong Xi Fa Cai!