This is not to sow bad thoughts about Chinese car brands. Not writing this in favor of Japanese or Korean automakers. Just commenting on the very real sense of anxiety on the part of customers who just bought brand-new Chinese vehicles, and then heard last week’s news about a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer declaring bankruptcy.
That EV maker is WM Motor. Why is this important to us? Well, you may not be familiar with the company, but it was launched in our market just last year. It was behind the Weltmeister brand. Surely, you must have learned about this brand—even known the people marketing it—if you regularly follow motoring websites. In July 2022, it introduced a P2,548,000 full-electric SUV. It’s hard to imagine the distributor managing to persuade even a dozen of buyers with this proposition: a car that could give them massive range anxiety on top of a badge that no one had even seen before. When you factor in the fact that the mother company had been birthed only in 2015, customers would feel justified for thinking that they had been tricked.
That is the picture of uncertainty for the average customer who chose to put his/her faith in a Chinese brand.
Did I make the right decision?
Is the brand that I picked reliable?
Can I rely on decent after-sales service?
Will I have access to parts supply?
And now: How long will the brand live?
When I survey the Chinese brands doing business in our market right now, it’s safe to say that there are five brands that we might trust (the operative word here is “might”): Geely, MG, Chery, Foton, and GAC. The rest still need to win our confidence. A couple show potential based on support from the headquarters (GWM/Haval and Changan); others have promise based on corporate profile (BYD, Dongfeng and Hongqi); others have a reputation as also-rans (Maxus, Kaicene, Haima and JAC); and a few are literally new names in the business (Jetour, Omoda and Jaecoo).
On the basis of all these brands’ business performance—and now news of bankruptcy affecting one of them—would you have total peace of mind if you bought one of their cars? Remember, it really is only now that we are getting to know these brands. If we are honest, purchasing a Chinese car today has an element of gambling to it. The onus is on them to convince us that owning their products is headache- and stress-free.
Quoting a high-ranking executive from a prominent Chinese brand: “With the countless brands and cars that come from China, I predict that we will reach a point where we will be left with only a few brands. Matira ang matibay. Survival of the fittest.”
The question is: Do the customers who buy these Chinese cars have the luxury of waiting and seeing? To many of them, they are spending their life savings just to own an automobile, as many of them are experiencing motorization for the first time.
It is my sincere hope that the influx of Chinese cars into our market today is a natural growth behavior among these manufacturers, and not because China needs to dump its new vehicles here in light of its domestic market’s downturn.
Considering the factors in choosing a Chinese brand, would you say a decision in this direction is a complete leap of faith (or even a lottery bet)? Or are you truly past this stage and you really think that Chinese cars can hold their own against the competition from Japan and Korea?
Something to think about before you bring out your checkbook.
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FILL YOUR TANK: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
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