The Chinese are running at redline to develop, improve and promote their domestic automotive industry. Brands like FAW, Chang’an Motors and SAIC may be totally obscure to the typical American car buyer, but they may become household names in just a few years. One company that’s pushing hard is the GAC group.
Short for Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd., the firm is displaying three vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show. Curiously they were all on display in the foyer of COBO Center because in the words of Dr. Xiangdong Huang, Group Vice President of Engineering they “underestimated the difficulty of booking a booth.” But looking on the bright side he said it’s the “most noticeable location of the show.” Word of advice, reserve show space in advance.
4×4 HYBRID Trumpchi
As for the vehicles GAC showed off, there was an all-wheel-drive hybrid sedan, an all-electric crossover and an extended range EV. First up: the 4×4 HYBRID Trumpchi sedan. According to the company it’s the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in China with all-wheel drive. It was independently developed by GAC. It also features an electric rear-axle drive system (ERAD), which means the back wheels are powered by an electric motor. Drivers can switch between two- and four-wheel drive. It even packs in all the hybrid features you’d expect, things like stop/start for the engine, regenerative braking and electric assist.
GALLERY: 4×4 HYBRID Trumpchi
BEV Trumpchi GS5
The BEV Trumpchi GS5 is a pure electric SUV. It’s powered by a 35 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that should deliver a driving range of 100 miles at a speed of 60 miles an hour. Its electric motor produces up to 200 horsepower, which should be enough to scoot the electric GS5 to 60 miles from a standstill in an altogether respectable 8.5 seconds.
GALLERY: BEV Trumpchi GS5
Arguably the most exciting vehicle GAC on display in Detroit is the NEV E-JET. This concept car is surprisingly stylish, but that’s not its major claim to fame. It’s actually a range-extended EV — think of it as a Chinese Chevy Volt. It’s built on a brand-new passenger-car platform that offers a pure-electric range of up to 100 kilometers, roughly 62 miles. Top speed is 160 kilometers per hour, about 100 miles an hour. A 13 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack powers the car’s electric motor. A 1.0-liter gasoline engine serves duty as the range extender. Huang said the production version of the E-JET will launch in about six months and that it will look quite different from the concept on display.
GALLERY: NEV E-JET
The Trumpchi hybrid sedan is already on sale in China, as is the non-hybrid version of the GS5 SUV. AutoGuide was told the other models shown will soon go on sale in the country.
The United States is certainly a potential market for GAC, but obviously they don’t sell vehicles here at the moment, so why are they showing off their products in Motown? Huang said “because this auto show is so important. Its influence is not just North America,” adding “we are also going to other important auto shows around the world.”
GAC has numerous joint ventures with other companies. They’re shacked up with Fiat and Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi and Hino, building numerous vehicles for these companies. On a component-level they have too many partners to list. Talk about getting around.
Last year GAC produced about 720,000 vehicles. From a volume perspective they were the sixth largest automaker in China.
When asked about a timetable for selling vehicles in the United States Huang said he couldn’t answer the question because “this is not my direct business.” The figure of two years was thrown out during the interview but he said that would be a very optimistic timetable. One thing’s for certain, the Chinese are coming, the only question is when.
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