Little-known now, but a big future

Updated: 2013-09-30 01:01

By CECILY LIU (China Daily)

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Great Wall's pickup wonder builds up a reputation in the UK automobile market

Everybody has heard of the Great Wall, but few outside China know of the products it lends its name to.

So Paul Hegarty remembers the challenge last year of bringing the Chinese car brand Great Wall Motors to the UK market.

Little-known now, but a big future

Paul Hegarty says IM Group is preparing for the launch of a Great Wall SUV, the H6, but the date is still to be decided.Xie Songxin / China Daily

"People asked me, ‘Who makes Great Wall?' and I said ‘Great Wall makes Great Wall'. Back then, no one knew who Great Wall was," says Hegarty, managing director of Great Wall Motor Distributors UK at IM Group.

China's biggest maker of sport utility vehicles was unknown in the UK when it was launched in April 2012 — but things have quickly changed.

Steed, Great Wall's pickup truck, has already sold about 1,000 vehicles and built up more than 50 dealerships in the UK and Ireland. IM Group is now preparing for the launch of a Great Wall SUV, the H6, which is already popular in China, although the date is yet to be decided.

Hegarty says it chose "value for money" as its marketing proposition.

"If you're an unknown brand in the market, you have to give the customer a reason to buy it," he says. "When we say value, we don't just mean being cheap. We came in at a price range that would undercut everybody else in the market but with high specifications."

The basic Steed S sold for 13,998 pounds ($22,200) at launch, significantly undercutting the cost of established brands of pickups in the UK market, such as the Isuzu Rodeo, Nissan Navara, Volkswagen Amarok, Mitsubishi L200, Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger.

Despite the low cost, Steed cars include features such as Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats, reverse sensors and full leather interior, many of which are unusual in a basic pickup, Hegarty says.

The cars are manufactured by Great Wall in China, and sent to IM Group's import center in Kent, where some final components are added.

Steed's price advantage also allowed it to be competitive in the secondhand market, a value proposition that its competitors are unable to match, Hegarty adds.

And it offers a longer warranty. The original three years offered at launch was extended to six years, a year longer than the warranty of any other pickup brand, he claims.

The new kid on the block pulls its weight in other respects. Following market feedback, the towing capacity has been increased from 2 to 2.5 tons.

However, because the Great Wall Steed's initial towing capacity became a challenge to sell to many farm owners, being difficult to tow livestock with it, Hegarty's team decided to target the shooting market.

"A lot of our customers are either employed full time in the shooting industry or they have a weekday job elsewhere and do shooting as a hobby at the weekend," he says.

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