In China, a low-cost electric vehicle (EV) selling for $4,500 (£3,200) is now outselling Tesla’s higher-end models.
The compact car is proving to be a major success for China’s top automaker, SAIC Motor.
The Hong Guang Mini EV is being produced as part of a joint venture with General Motors in the United States (GM).
In China, sales of the low-cost electric car were nearly double those of Tesla, which was questioned this month over safety concerns in the country.
While the $4,500 Hong Guang Mini is the most popular model, there is an upgraded one with air conditioning for just over $5,000. The cars are being marketed as “the people’s commuting tool”.
Wuling is the local name for the joint venture project SAIC-GM-Wuling.
- Tesla’s plans have been thwarted by Chinese regulators.
- Hyundai would upgrade 82,000 batteries due to a fire hazard.
- By 2025, the Jaguar car brand will be fully hybrid.
Although it clearly lags behind Tesla in terms of battery, range, and efficiency, car experts say its simplicity and low price have made it one of China’s most popular “new-energy” vehicles.
The basic model, which debuted last year, has a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and can carry four people in a pinch.
The four-seat Hong Guang Mini EV has a claimed range of 106 miles on a single charge.
According to Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group, “China’s government is serious about emission reduction and being the world leader in embracing and encouraging innovation of electric vehicles.”
“We remain very positive about the adoption of low-cost EVs like the Hong Guang Mini, as well as higher-end EVs like NIO and Tesla.”
To promote EVs, the Chinese government offers license plates for free and they are guaranteed. In many cities, it can take months, if not years, to get a license plate for a petrol engine through various auction systems.
Taking on Tesla
The Hong Guang Mini EV saw sales of 112,000 for the second half of 2020, ranking second behind Tesla’s Model 3 which are made in its Shanghai factory.
Earlier this month five Chinese regulators summoned Tesla over quality and safety issues at its plant. China is Tesla’s largest market after the US.
For January, Hong Guang Mini sales outstripped Tesla almost two-to-one. It is now believed to be the second-best-selling electric model worldwide behind the Model 3.
According to the China Passenger Car Association, the tiny all-electric EV sold 25,778 units in China in January (CPCA). In comparison, the Tesla Model 3 costs $13,843.
However, high-end electric vehicles have performed well, with Tesla’s sales volume in China more than doubling last year.
In China, the Model 3 costs about $39,000 (£27,000) after price reductions due to local demand.
The Hong Guang Mini EV could be seen outside of China, as Wuling has stated that it intends to export the vehicle.
“China has a multitude of small and inexpensive electric vehicle manufacturers, but the majority of them produce low-quality, low-speed vehicles that do not cater to a large market,” said Sam Fiorani of Auto Forecast Solutions.
“With the Hong Guang Mini, a big company has stepped up with a basic EV that targets buyers searching for a real car for the first time.”
According to reports, Wuling is working with a Latvian automaker to sell a version of the car in Europe, but the price would likely be twice as high due to European environmental regulations.