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Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (5/5)

2. SUVHaval Concept R

This is Part 5 of my ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Show. You can check out Part 1 (from #35 to #21) herePart 2 (from #20 to #11) here, Part 3 (from #10 to #6) here and Part 4 (from #5 to #2) here.

Like in Beijing last year, I was most impressed by Haval at Auto Shanghai, and for a variety of reasons. Haval is Great Wall’s SUV marque, a standalone brand since July 2013. Above all, having topped my ranking last year already, I had high expectations for the brand and they didn’t disappoint, which was a very significant achievement on its own.

Haval stand 2

Haval standThe multi-layered Haval stand at Auto Shanghai 2015

Haval is the only manufacturer in the entire Auto Shanghai (not just the Chinese carmakers) to have built a multi-layered stand, displaying no less than 28 vehicles. It reminded me of Mercedes going all out at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2013. Haval was the only Chinese manufacturer in an exhibition hall almost exclusively dedicated to SUV brands, sitting next to Jaguar Land Rover and Jeep. No inferiority complex and a willingness to play with the big boys earned my respect once again and put Haval in a sphere of its own among Chinese carmakers.

Haval H6 CoupeHaval H6 Coupe

Once on the stand, although I was bracing myself for a couple of new, unheard-of before models, I got an avalanche of new fares. Two concepts looking very aggressive and very sexy indeed, the Concept B and R (for Blue and Red) were royally waving at the crowd from their elevated stage, hinting at a future range-topping model slotted above the H9 (H10?) that hopefully will be unveiled in Beijing next year. Haval relaunched its best-seller, the H6, just before my eyes, adding a very appealing H6 Coupe variant in the mix. So just to clarify, the H6 was already facelifted a little more than a year ago when the H6 Sport launched and quickly accounted for the majority of the H6 nameplate sales, and now the nameplate is completely renewed, looking better than ever. I was amazed at Hyundai replacing their models every 3 years, but it looks like Haval is doing so every 18 months. Keeping in mind two years ago Haval wasn’t even a standalone brand, this pace is simply astounding.

Haval H7Haval H7

But that wasn’t all. A completely new Haval nameplate made its first appearance at Auto Shanghai: the H7, introduced in two variants: the H7 and H7L extended wheelbase, each featuring different front designs and effectively looking like two different vehicles altogether. That’s four new Haval models with very strong sales potential making their debut at Auto Shanghai 2015. Everything I appreciated at the Haval stand in Beijing last year remained true this year, only in a much larger scale. Host(esse)s open the door for you to slide inside each car and close it behind you, are very helpful and answer all your questions in perfect English. All nameplates are present, including the H1 looking very cool inside with coloured dashboards assorted with the exterior paint, the H2 now a trusted best-seller, the patched-up H5 and H6 Classic and the flagships H8 and H9. So it’s all good and well in the best of worlds for Haval? Not quite.

Haval Concept BHaval Concept B

Firstly, Haval unveiled a new Red/Blue logo strategy at the Show. It’s a mystery to me that Chinese manufacturers are obsessed with ruining something very clear, single-minded and efficient in their hands by confusing the heck out of it. The success and growth of the SUV-exclusive Haval brand in China in the past two years is potentially the most impressive strategic achievement of any Chinese carmaker, ever. Now to confuse it with two different philosophies and logos. Labelled as “an impressive fission of Haval that will bring the brand to a new level” (cough), this new strategy means Haval’s products will now be divided into two lines represented by a red or a blue logo. “Luxurious and classic Red Logo Haval targets mainstream families, and cool and trendy Blue Logo Haval targets young consumers” (Haval words). In the future, Haval’s sales network will be divided into the red network and the blue network, too. What?!

Haval H6 Coupe 3This H6 Coupe has a red logo and looks a lot like the H7…

The Concept R (for Red) and B (for Blue) were used to launch this new logo strategy, but the Concept R was looking much more aggressive and sexy with its Audi-inspired grille whereas the Concept B, although classy with its thin headlights and hexagonal grille, was a lot blander. So mainstream families prefer aggressive styling whereas the youth wants conservative? I think you got it all wrong there Haval. Armed with this info, I had to go through all models displayed on the Haval stand one more time to see if I could guess whether their logo should be red or blue. And then I discovered the H6 Coupe was shown in two different-looking variants: one with a red logo, one with a blue. So the H6 now comes as H6 Classic, H6 Sport, New H6, H6 Coupe blue and H6 Coupe red, that’s five different vehicles. If this doesn’t cement the #2 ranking it snapped in April in the overall Chinese models ranking, I don’t know what will. The H1 had a blue logo (makes sense), the H5 and H6 Classic also (because they’re older and cheap?), the H7 had a red one (logical) but the H7L a blue one (what?)… I give up.

Haval H1Blue logo’ed Haval H1

Having its range expand from essentially one nameplate (the H5) three years ago to 12 vehicles today and potentially 15 within a few months when the Concept R and B come to life, Haval has displayed the fastest lineup expansion I have witnessed in the course of the almost 30 years I have spent studying the global automotive industry. Enormous kudos should go to Great Wall for having the guts to separate the Haval brand from the rest of the Great Wall lineup in the first place, making it a credible standalone SUV specialist brand and growing it so smartly and so fast.

Haval H5Haval H5 Classic celebrating 10 (youthful?) years of existence with a blue logo.

However there is one last thing I must mention before I’m done with Haval and Auto Shanghai 2015. The same way Volkswagen has lost themselves in their success and started spitting clones a couple of years ago, Haval snouts are starting to look dangerously similar: The H6 Coupe looks like the Concept R while the new H6 now looks like a H7 that is a smaller clone of the H8 which in turn takes clues from the H6 Sport and the H2. Caution Haval, don’t ruin a perfectly oiled machine even before you take your brand overseas.

This concludes my coverage of Auto Shanghai 2015, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. The next Auto show we will cover at BSCB is Frankfurt in September this year, so stay tuned!

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