Opinion: Finally, a Chinese car brand to take seriously in Europe

Opinion: Finally, a Chinese car brand to take seriously in Europe

So the moment has arrived: a credible Chinese car maker entering the European car market with something other than a cheap runaround.

Yes, the Wey Coffee 01 has a rather weird name, but everything else the execution of this premium SUV is to be taken deadly seriously. It comes from Great Wall Motors, China’s biggest SUV maker for more than a decade, which today confirmed plans to not only start selling cars in Europe in 2022 (starting with Germany) but that it would build a factory here and extend R&D operations, too.

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Wey was set up in 2016 to sit above Great Wall’s Haval brand, and always had global aspirations on its mind. We heard as much back in 2017 at the Guangzhou motor show, when your correspondent first came across the brand and those behind it.

Electric car buyers have so-far proven themselves to be far much more brand agnostic than those in ‘legacy’ products. Technology, range and price all seem far more important than the badge on the bonnet, which is partly why the likes of Hyundai with the Kona Electric and Kia with the eNiro have had such success.

Tesla is a bit different, but it’s frankly cleaning up when compared to the electric car efforts of traditional car makers in Europe, with only the Volkswagen Golf above it in the sales charts in June, with the likes of the VW ID 3 and ID 4 nowhere to be seen.

This shows how ripe for disruption the electric car market really is from not only brands who might not be seen as the most fashionable, but from new entrants, too. While the Coffee 01 is plug-in hybrid, it’s the one with the biggest battery and greatest range yet seen and is a forerunner to a whole range of electrified models to come.

Wey markets itself as premium, and it will match many a European offering, ‘premium’ or not, with technology, and trump them on range and price.

All of which makes the current premium brands at a bit of a tipping point. Over the past decade, the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, as well as Volkswagen and Volvo, have made ever-more cars and made ever-more profits.

Yet there’s no getting away from the fact that electric cars typically offer a broader similar driving experience, no matter what brand they’re coming from. So as these traditional premium brands, like all other car makers old and new, go all in on electric cars, what’s going to define them as premium in the future? Driving a premium internal combustion engined saloon from a mainstream one offers a noticeable difference that isn’t so noticeable when you switch the propulsion to electric. 

The disruption of electric cars is not only from the technology powering them but from the brands that make them. Wey, an experienced and successful car company in China, has a golden chance to be successful in a new world now that the old one has been left behind.


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