Chinese brand Great Wall puts value at heart of plan to scale UK market

Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paul Hegarty, the MD of Chinese brand Great Wall, speaks to James Dallas about the firm’s aim to establish itself in the pick-up sector by offering lower prices than its rivals
 Great Wall Motor Company introduced its Steed pick-up truck to the UK in April via its distributor, the IM Group.
The vehicle faces the task of muscling its way into a sector that has recently become more congested with the high-profile arrivals of the new Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok. But although the Steed falls some way short of its rivals in terms of refinement and sophistication, Great Wall is bucking the upwardly mobile trend by positioning its contender squarely in the bargain basement. It claims the double-cab 4WD Steed is cheaper than its competitors’ 2WD single-cab pick-ups.
“We’re a little-known brand with competitive pricing,” says Paul Hegarty, managing director, Great Wall UK.
The pick-up comes in just two specifications: the Steed S, priced £13,998 excluding VAT, and the Steed SE priced at £15,998, and Hegarty says the reason for this simple approach is that “confusion doesn’t sell”. Meanwhile, with starting prices so low, dealers have been instructed not to negotiate discounts.
“The Steed is sure to attract lots of interest in the UK thanks to its unbeatable value and the unique Great Wall customer-service promise being offered by our new network of dealers,” adds Hegarty. “Our pick-up boasts a high level of practicality, reliability and durability, as well as low running costs. It will represent a superb ownership proposition and will give Great Wall a flying start in the UK.”

Customer service

The aforementioned Great Wall “promise” refers to a level of customer service Hegarty claims is unique in the segment. It includes a commitment by its 40 dealerships to offer customers test drives at home or at their place of work within a 20-mile radius of the site and also to provide free service pick-ups and drop-offs within similar distances. All Steeds come with a three-year/ 60,000-mile warranty, a six-year anti- perforation warranty, three-year paint warranty and three years of roadside recovery and assistance. The firm offers fixed-price monthly service payments and pledges to only invoice for work previously agreed with the customer.
A 143hp 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engine with maximum torque of 305Nm powers the Steed in both specifications and this comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Under normal conditions power is driven to the rear wheels but on-demand four-wheel drive can be selected at speeds of up to 12mph. Low-ratio four-wheel drive can be selected when the vehicle is stationary.
Official combined-cycle fuel consumption is 34.0mpg and the importer claims its urban figure of 30.1mpg is the best-in-class. On the other hand, CO2 emissions of 220g/km fall short of the best on offer elsewhere, but the Steed is an anomaly in the segment in that its engine is still only Euro4 compliant.
While new medium and large LCVs needed to comply with the Euro5 standard by 1 January 2012 under type- approval rules, exceptions were made for end-of-series derogated Euro4 vehicles, which were granted an extension of up to 18 months. According to the Department for Transport, this flexibility mainly covers vehicles
left in stock that were built before the compliance date.
Hegarty does not see the Steed’s Euro4 classification as a stumbling block. “It doesn’t affect the cost to the owner,” he says. “VED is not dependent on emissions, it’s a £215 flat rate.” He adds that Euro5 models will begin to arrive in the UK early next year.
As well as Subaru, the IM Group also imports Isuzu pick-ups to the UK. The Japanese brand pitches itself as the champion of the workhorse truck and eschews the lifestyle sector, but Hegarty insists it will not compete with the Steed because prices for Isuzu’s new D-max double-cab start at £17,749, excluding VAT – £1751 more than the flagship SE Steed.
Hegarty reckons the Steed will “attract customers who would otherwise buy used”. He claims the price factor will mean customers will view a new Steed as an attractive alternative to, for example, a three-year old Toyota Hilux that has put in more than 40,000 miles of hard graft for a utility company.
He stresses that Great Wall is keeping an open mind when it comes to who might buy the Steed and is keen not to narrow its options by targeting specific sections of the market. He describes the Great Wall stand at April’s CV Show, where the Steed took centre stage, as being “distinctive” but deliberately “neutral” in not identifying “the end user”.
“We are not making assumptions as to who’s going to buy it,” claims Hegarty. “We’re saying here it is, here’s the price, here are the specs – we’ll sell them all over the place.”
Although 400 units have arrived in the UK so far with 50 sold by late April, the importer is not predicting volumes. Hegarty says: “We don’t want distortions from setting volume targets. We don’t want vehicles sitting in a field; we want them to go to the end user.”

 

 

China’s pick-up leader

Great Wall, established 35 years ago, is China’s market leader for pick-ups and SUVs, and claims to be the first major Chinese franchise to launch in the UK, although DFSK may take issue with this, having started sales of its Loadhopper microvan in November. It is already established in 120 markets globally, including South Africa, Australia and Italy.
The firm has total assets of £2.7bn and 45,000 employees worldwide, and has doubled annual production capacity to 800,000 units having opened a new manufacturing facility at Tianjin, near Beijing. The plant will produce eight models. Great Wall plans to increase production to 1.5 million by 2015.
The manufacturer sells approximately 120,000 Steeds domestically every year, totalling 700,000 to date, and plans to export 40,000 in 2012.
Following the Steed pick-up, Great Wall will launch an SUV in the UK in mid-2013.

 

Going for a ride in the Steed

Great Wall makes no bones about the fact that it is selling its double-cab Steed pick-up truck on its affordability.
In fact, a light-hearted poster campaign proclaiming its bargain- basement price and bearing the tagline “What a relief”, featured heavily on the walls of the washrooms at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April.
Coming in two specifications, prices for the Steed start at £13,998 (excluding VAT) for the E and rise to £15,998 (excluding VAT) for the SE. They are easy to distinguish because the SE’s load area is covered by a body-coloured hard-top canopy.
Insurance groupings are 7A and 8A, which Great Wall claims are the lowest in the sector, and the official figure for fuel consumption is 34.0mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions from the currently Euro4 143hp 2.0-litre engine put at 220g/km.
But Great Wall’s UK boss, Paul Hegarty, insists imports from China are not just cheap and cheerful, and to make the point he brandishes his smartphone and declares: “After all, these are made there!”
He draws attention to the standard specification on the entry-level Steed. This includes 16-inch alloys, daytime running lights, remote central locking, Thatcham-approved alarm, electric front and rear windows, an Alpine CD/radio with USB/MP3 and Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, manual air-conditioning, heated front seats and leather trimming on the gear knob and steering wheel.
We tested the SE, which gets the aforementioned load canopy, body-coloured spoiler, chrome-trimmed daytime running lights, chrome side bars, black roof rails, load bay liner and rear parking sensors – a must when reversing down country lanes, and the countryside is surely the Steed’s most natural habitat.
But once behind the wheel you are unlikely to think you’ve clambered into the cabin of a new Ford Ranger or VW Amarok. It’s cheap and not altogether cheerful. The aftermarket-fitted Alpine radio is a non-integrated anachronism and should be removed for safe keeping when you park. The tiny buttons make it hard to use too, and search for a clock on the dash and you will search in vain.
The glove compartment in our vehicle needed to be shut firmly to keep it closed and there’s a lot of hard plastic all round the cab.
The seats are not height-adjustable, which may cause problems for the very short or tall, and the ride is not the most forgiving on rough terrain.
On the other hand, although it’s a hands-on drive, the six-speed manual gearbox is sound and there’s an air of sturdy competence about the Steed both on- and off-road where the four-wheel drive in low ratio would seem to be more than capable of coping with whatever obstacles a working farm might put in its way.
A plus point is the 1000kg payload – as Hegarty succinctly puts it, anything less and you are “knackered” when it comes to tax.
But the 2000kg towing capacity may leave some turning to the used market instead where Isuzu’s Rodeo workhorse out-muscles its new IM Group stablemate with a 3000kg capability.
A ‘does what it says on the tin’ pick-up, the Steed wins no prizes for refinement but makes a compelling price proposition.



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