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Great Wall explores rebooting India entry plans, may adopt top down strategy


China’s largest SUV maker Great Wall Motors is revisiting its entry strategy into India, stung by covid-19 and the inordinate delay in FDI approvals from New Delhi,.

Instead of a billion-dollar plan, the company has pruned its capital outlay for India and will instead look at a top-down strategy that focuses on importing knocked-down kits and completely built units to seed its brand in India.

The company had plans of targeting the mainstream market with a range of SUVs. That’s now being shelved, instead company will rely and D segment SUV and a B segment electric hatchback or an SUV is being explored which may be imported as a completely built unit.

The intention is to focus on cleaner technologies –hybrid, electric as well as hydrogen fuel-cell technology – and use them as differentiators to establish itself in the highly competitive market.

The top of the line SUV is expected to come with a Haval brand and hybrid powertrain solution. GWM India is studying if a hatchback under the EV brand Ora can also be brought to India or a B segment SUV to challenge MG ZS, said people in the know.

To execute this plan, the president of the Indian operations has already come back to the country along with a few Chinese expats from the production engineering team for the rollout of the alternative plan.

The company has already started reaching out to a couple of dozen executives to build the leadership team across sales, marketing, dealer development, hoping to get government clearances soon.

According to people in the know, the company was hopeful of getting FDI clearance from the government in Q1 of FY-22 once several state elections are over. The company had signed a term sheet with General Motors to acquire the Talegaon facility, which is set to expire in Q2 of FY-22.

While the dispute between workers and General Motors India has stretched, Great Wall is hopeful of a resolution between workers and the US carmaker in the coming few months.

An email sent to the company did not elicit any response.

India was set to be one of the biggest export bases for Great Wall Motors: The role now may be assumed by Thailand or Russia where the company has started production.

“While there has been some positive progress on the border the situation is not yet completely resolved. So instead of spending huge amount of money and getting caught in the crossfire of geo-political tension between two countries, GWM felt a focus on the top-down strategy, with CKD and CBU and cleaner powertrains, is a safer option,” said one of the three people in the know of the company’s plans.

Interestingly, the company’s mid-sized SUV – Haval H6 – has been with homologating agency Automotive Research Association of India for over six months.

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