Huatai Bucks Trend Of Domestic Manufacturers’ “Race To The Bottom,” Choosing Quality Over Low Price
One of the problems that has traditionally beset domestic Chinese auto manufacturers is a perception of low quality and low price among Chinese car buyers. As a result, beyond the lowest entry price point, most Chinese auto buyers opt for foreign brands or, at the very least, joint ventures like Shanghai Volkswagen or Chang’an Ford. This “domestic prejudice” is especially apparent at the high-end, where Mercedes-Benz (which sold some 68,500 vehicles, their best year ever, in mainland China in 2009), BMW (which sold 98,869 units in the Greater China region, including joint venture-built models), and Bentley (the favored brand of China’s wealthy elite last year, according to the Hurun Report’s “Best of the Best” list) reign supreme.
Year by year, however, Chinese manufacturers are gradually rising to the challenge and producing consistently better models. Though the road ahead is nothing if not paved with uncertainty, the Chinese automaker Huatai appears to be targeting a heretofore underserved niche — the “semi-premium market” — with their newest sedan, the B11. According to China Car Times, which has some spy shots captured at a press event for the B11 held this weekend in China.
As CCT (insightfully) points out, though early spy shots of the B11 elicited no shortage of snark by those who saw Huatai’s first premium offering as a “Bentley clone,” the production model is sleek and spacious (a nod to the Chinese car buyers’ mantra “longer is better”), and very well could prove a worthy challenger to the foreign-brand-dominated premium market. (Though the ultra-premium market will likely remain the singular domain of the Bentleys, Maybachs and Ferraris of the world for the foreseeable future.) Interestingly enough, the fact that Huatai plans to introduce diesel models of the B11 has CCT speculating that the company may have one eye on the Europe market.
Huatai are aiming to enter the premium auto segment [with the B11], a market that has been largely overlooked by Chinese manufacturers that are on a continual race to the bottom of the price barrel with ever cheaper models, Huatai on the other hand have seen a niche market that has not yet been entered into by the majority of Chinese car manufacturers, and that is the semi premium segment. So far only Chery and Brilliance have had the testicular fortitude required to take on the JV car makers with Chinese premium cars. The interior and the exterior are both looking excellent, and could take on mid level JV cars such as the last generation Mazda6 with relative ease.
Under the hood, diesel engines appear to rule the roost with Huatai building 2.0T and 1.5T diesel engines for the B11, which will be mated to 5 speed manual and 4 speed automatic gearboxes. The introduction of diesel engines may indicate that Huatai plan to take this car to Europe where the love of the black stuff runs high.