Great Wall Motor Co., the maker of Haval SUVs and pickup trucks, unveiled a new energy vehicle strategy late Friday, pledging to double down on plug-in hybrid electric technology and becoming the latest traditional Chinese auto company to play catchup as the shift toward cleaner vehicles accelerates.
The Chinese automaker said new technology can bring the fuel efficiency of a two-wheel drive to its four-wheel SUVs. It does that by placing one motor at the front of the car and one at the back, and employing intelligent torque control.
For the so-called Hi4 technlogy, “H represents hybrid, i for intelligent, while 4 means 4 wheel drive,” the company said in a statement. “All EVs of Great Wall brand will carry the 4WD tech in 2024, while in future the company intends to make it open source.”
The realignment comes as Great Wall posted a 17 percent sales decline in 2022, the first time a drop has occurred since 2018. Its lineup is light on electric vehicles, barring the compact ORA pure EV range, and sales of even those models dropped 23 percent. That in a year when China NEV sales almost doubled to 6.5 million units.
Great Wall has since lowered its sales forecast for 2023 from 2.8 million units to 1.6 million. Preliminary net income for the 12 months ended Dec. 31 should come in at 8.3 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), the company said in February, missing the market’s expectations for around 10.1 billion yuan.
Makers of internal combustion engine vehicles are facing a tough time in China, where EV sales now account for about one in every four new vehicles sold. Sales of ICE autos dropped 13 percent in 2022 while battery EV sales rose 74 percent and plug-in hybrids surged around 160 percent, according to China’s Passenger Car Association. Provincial governments and several carmakers have started to offer steep discounts to consumers to clear gasoline powered vehicles.
In the same event, Great Wall also announced an unusual move of offering awards of up to 10 million yuan for people that report internet trolls. It said the program will help return peace to the auto industry and rational competition among peers.
Great Wall’s shift follows that of another large Chinese automaker, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. It unveiled a new high-end line of electric cars last month as part of a push to make up lost ground to Tesla Inc., which makes around 70,000 EVs a month from its factory in Shanghai, and local powerhouse BYD Co.
Geely, one of China’s largest private automakers, already had a suite of electric vehicle brands, however, including pure battery premium line Zeekr, which it launched in 2021.