Great expectations

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The Haval H6 SUV comes with an array of features.

While it may have been unusual in the past for the Kingdom’s car buyers to choose a Chinese vehicle over Japanese and European marques, this is changing rapidly.

The chairman of Worldwide Motors Company (WMC) – Cambodia’s leading distributor of Great Wall vehicles – says exciting times lie ahead for the Chinese automotive industry in the Kingdom.

Peang Mann, who also is the CEO of WMC, says recent developments are paving the way for the increased presence of Chinese vehicles on the Kingdom’s roads.

Changing perceptions among Cambodians of Chinese automakers – coupled with even more competitive pricing and generous after-sales – will result in many more cars from the Asian giant being bought, he says.

“The main negative view was that Chinese cars are low priced and must therefore be lower quality. However, people are increasingly starting to realise that the quality of Chinese vehicles is at least as good if not better than other products on the market,” Mann says.

With the demand for Chinese cars increasing, WMC plans to open a new 33-50ha assembly plant in Prey Veng province near the Vietnamese border this year, with technological assistance from Great Wall and its other marques to ensure every car is of the highest quality before it reaches the customer.

“The plant has the capacity to assemble 50,000 cars a year. We hope to initially assemble 500 to 1,000 units a year in the first few years, but this will increase as more investors come on board,” Mann says.

Additionally, Great Wall buying General Motors’ factory in Thailand will ease expansion into untapped markets in Asean – including Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos – and increase market share in the countries it already works in – including Cambodia – along with Malaysia and Indonesia, where it already has great traction, he adds.

WMC, which sells a comprehensive range of Chinese vehicles – including Great Wall saloons and pick-ups, SUVs from Haval, Zotye, Huanghai, Traum and FAW, as well as BAW minivans – began operations in 2013.

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The H6's interior is laid out in luxurious leather.

Prices range from $20,700 for the Great Wall Voleex C30 four-door saloon to $45,000-$68,000 for the Haval H6, and up to $73,000 for the premium Haval H9 SUV. The H9 is a large, capable and well-specified seven-seater that is packed with a raft of high-end and luxury features, and comes at a reasonable price.

With word quickly spreading of their high build quality, WMC saw a 60 per cent increase in sales of Chinese cars last year compared to 2018, up to some 500 from around 300.

Mann is committed to helping Cambodians own new cars, and he says his vehicles have the lowest down payments available in the Kingdom, at 15 to 20 per cent, and generous after-care, with free yearly servicing for the duration of the financing and five- to seven-year warranties.

He called on banks to assist him in this goal by supplying greater credit options to both buyers and distributors, and invited more investors to come on board.

Mann said the build quality of Chinese cars was reflected in their safety scores.

“Haval and other brands have been awarded the maximum 5-Star ANCAP [Australian New Car Assessment Program] safety rating.

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The H6's stylish dashboard is packed with digital technology.

“The build quality of our Chinese vehicles is at least on par with those from Japanese, Korean, American or German manufacturers, with many of these being made in China,” he says.

Indeed, perceptions of the build quality of Chinese vehicles have been changing for some time.

Robin Page, the senior vice-president of design at Volvo, said back in 2018 that the quality of Chinese manufacturing was impressive after the Swedish carmaker opted to build vehicles in China.

“What we’re finding is that the quality of the cars is actually better in China than in Europe. Everyone was worried about quality, but as soon as [the Chinese] started, the quality was even higher than in Europe,” Page told Australia’s Go Auto.

Mann is confident that the cars sold by WMC are more than a match for any other.

“People are increasingly becoming aware of how attractive Chinese cars are due to their design, range of features and build quality. Try a Chinese car and you will see for yourself how good they are,” he says.