After the launch of Dongfeng’s new high-end EV brand Voyah a few weeks ago, a new important milestone in the Chinese automotive industry occurred last week. This warrants a new update and confirms the largest new car market in the world isn’t slowing down despite the global Covid-19 crisis. Keep in mind we update our Exclusive Guide to all 172 active Chinese brands every time new information becomes available, as we have done for these news. Hengchi (恒驰), Mandarin for “forever galloping” and sounding similar to “Benchi”, Chinese for Mercedes-Benz, is an EV car brand by Evergrande Auto. This is a subsidiary of Evergrande Group, China’s second-largest property developer. Evergrande and has been aggressively expanding into the automotive space as the Chinese property market slows down, announcing outlandish sales objectives which is not uncommon for Chinese EV makers. However things became a lot more real on August 3 when Hengchi unveiled not one new sedan, as it was rumoured to, but a full range of six new models alongside its logo.
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Let’s backtrack to 2019: in January of that year Evergrande bought 51% of National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), in essence Saab, and became the majority investor in Swedish supercar brand Koenigsegg. In June, Evergrande said it was aiming at becoming the world’s largest EV company within the next three to five years and in November, chairman Hui Ka Yan announced the company would invest ¥45 billion over the next 3 years and build 10 (!) production bases in China, Sweden and countries along the “Belt and Road”, each with annual output capacity of 500.000 units. Evergrande also plans to set up several super battery factories with annual production capacity of 60 GWh within 10 years to build a complete ecological chain. Sales objectives announced in late 2019 are unheard of: 1 million vehicles annually within 2 to 3 years and 5 million vehicles per year within 10 to 15 years. That’s almost as many vehicles – let alone EVs – as Ford (5.385m) or Honda (5.173m) sold worldwide in 2019. In fact our 2019 global figures show that only 7 automotive groups sold more: VW, Toyota, Renault-Nissan, GM, Hyundai-Kia, Ford and Honda. Any other new entrant in the automotive industry wouldn’t have been taken seriously with such surreal targets, but Evergrande is a heavyweight conglomerate and it means business.
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We weren’t expecting the Hengchi 1 sedan until the end of 2020, especially given all the Covid-19 disruption. The first two production facilities, in Songjiang near Shanghai and Nansha in the Guangdong province, each good for 200.000 annual vehicles, are expected to kick start activity in 2021. But last week Hengchi just did what no other car company has ever done: launching its first 6 models at once, confirming if needed be how serious Evergrande is about this new EV venture. The head designer is Anders Warming, ex-BMW Group and Borgward, assisted by Michael Robinson, ex-Volvo, Ford, Fiat and Lancia. And together they have created a lineup that is not just a copy paste (like say Lynk & Co and WEY) but already features truly different vehicles. Hengchi targets all main segments of the Chinese market at once: the 1 and 2 are sporty sedans, the 3 and 5 are SUVs, the 4 is an MPV and the 6 is a coupe SUV. We now have to wait until 2021, when all these models will presumably enter the Chinese market, to get a good grasp at how successful Hengchi truly can be. Accordingly, Hengchi’s entry has now been updated with this new information in our Exclusive Guide to all 172 active Chinese brands.
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