Changan Auto is ready for its closeup

To be completely honest, there was a sense that Changan Auto was underperforming here – or at least was seemingly content to fly under the industry radar. But amid the continued deluge of brands from China, it could no longer afford to do this without imperiling its business viability in the Philippines.

Thus, when London-based Inchcape, the “largest independent global automotive distributor and retailer in the world,” with a presence in 42 markets across five continents, took over the local distributorship reins along with its CATS Group partner, it precisely helped restore the bullishness – and hope – for the Chongqing-headquartered company.

Before the pandemic, there were direct flights from Manila to that large municipality. These days, you access Chongqing through a flight from Hong Kong. The mountainous region is a perfect backdrop for houses and establishments which hug the areas fringing the Yangtze and Jianling Rivers. It’s a magnet for tourists foreign and domestic, who revel in the breathtaking scenery – particularly at night.

Cool weather welcomed our group of dealers, bank partners, members of the media, and content creators when we went on a Changan Brand Experience to this part of China. The smallest of the so-called “Big Four” state-owned auto brands, Changan is nonetheless the country’s biggest seller of internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered vehicles.

As larger companies are wont to do, Changan distinctly stratifies its products into sub-brands: Deepal (or Shenlan, purveying electric vehicles), Avatr (its premium EV line with joint investor CATL, the world’s leading battery manufacturer), Changan Qiyuan (electric vehicle line under the Changan brand), Changan Uni (ICE-powered vehicles), Oshan (mid-level SUVs and MPVs), and Kaicene (commercial vehicles).

It’s an all-digital affair in the Avatr 11’s cabin.

Changan Auto Philippines General Manager Maricar Parco told The Philippine STAR, “The whole brand portfolio of Changan Auto is available for Inchcape Philippines. Again, we introduced the Changan ICE vehicles and previewed the Deepal which we hope to introduce as soon as next year. And because of the proximity of China to our country, we can get our vehicles quite quickly, and it’s really just a matter of having the business proposition approved.”

Appreciating the girth and breadth of the Changan group obviously lends confidence in its products and services. The operation is huge, involving some 72,000 employees and an additional one million jobs across the group’s suppliers and contractors.
It has a market capitalization of RMB210 billion, and Changan has 73 branches and subsidiaries, nine manufacturing hubs, and 27 vehicle and power plants spread in 64 countries and regions. It has 9,000 dealerships worldwide, peopled by 120,000 service staff. 

A line of Changan vehicles and its affiliated brands are parked at the Changan Global R&D facility in Chongqing, China.

In Chongqing, Changan maintains its main R&D center – the nexus of a 10-strong global network located in Beijing, Shanghai (software development center), Hefei, Japan (styling design center), the US (intelligent driving R&D center), Hebei (light vehicle R&D center), the UK (power R&D center), Germany (styling design center), antd another design center in Europe. 

Meanwhile, Changan and its affiliated brands are further developed and honed in a sprawling test facility located in Dianjiang, some three hours by land from Chongqing’s heart. We were driven at speed aboard several representative models across the brands to appreciate the high-speed track, clearly the highlight of this aggrupation of test strips, circuits, and pads. 

At the assembly line of Changan’s Liangjiang Plant

If you’re wondering, “Chang-an” means “lasting safety” in its traditional Chinese form, and the company embraces this as it claims to not only boast a “comprehensive and complete product line-up to the Filipino that is competitive in pricing, yet also exceptional when it comes superior driving performance, in-car technology, and intelligent driving and safety systems.”

At the brand’s relaunch, Changan International Corporation Vice-General Manager Tom Yin said that the main goals of Changan are electrification, increased connectivity, and a so-called “vast ocean” plan that targets the sale of 1.2 million cars outside of China by 2030.

The Philippine delegation poses with some Changan officials at the Changan Global R&D Center in Chongqing. Photo from CHANGAN AUTO

Meanwhile, Inchcape Philippines Managing Director Alex Hammett had insisted that the global partnership with Changan, inked this year, promises “much better services” to the growing number of Changan customers in the Philippines. Inchcape is poised to leverage its “industry leading digital and data analytics capabilities based here in the Philippines,” continued Hammett. “(It’s here) where we have our digital center with over 650 employees working on digital solutions, AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, cybersecurity, and so on.”

During a recent conversation with The Philippine STAR, the executive revealed plans to set up a regional Inchcape office in Philippines. It makes sense, he said, owing to the presence of the digital delivery center, the Filipinos’ fluency in the English language, and Inchcape’s confidence in its CATS Group partner.

Meanwhile, Inchcape Philippines Chief Operating Officer Francis Jonathan “Frankie” Ang revealed that the group and its affiliated brands are currently in the process of laying down the IT infrastructure that will bring it to speed with Inchcape worldwide standards and redound in obvious benefit to both internal and external stakeholders.

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