Remember the times when India and China were talked about in the same breath? As two emerging nations in the global order? As two automotive markets that are likely to rule the industry in times to come? Well, discussions about these two countries haven’t receded, nor has the competitive spirit gone down. Both countries continue to be the fastest growing economies in Asia, but clearly, China has opened up a huge lead over its southern neighbour and for India to catch-up would be a very tall order, if not impossible.
I spent a few days in and around Shanghai in mid-October as a guest of SAIC Motor Corp. The company, through its Indian subsidiary MG Motor India, is re-entering India in the first half of next year with an SUV. The company is taking a top-down approach in the Indian market. We can’t be sure whether that is a good strategy, but in a market where the top four carmakers dominate 80 % of the business, MG Motor India must have figured out the gap that it could fill in the mid-to-top-end SUV segment. If that isn’t a bet yet, the company has announced that its second product would be an EV, which will be launched in 2020.
What we saw at SAIC Motor – its facilities, focus on R&D & innovation, design capabilities and products – state an intent; a vision to be up among the best in the world. The vehicles we drove at SAIC Motor are beautifully designed, manufactured well, and drive brilliantly. The Roewe Marvel X, for instance, uses a 52.5 kWh battery that ensures the vehicle goes from 0-100 km/h in just 4.8 s and has an impressive range of 500 km. There is no reason why SAIC vehicles can’t compete with the best in the world.
Chinese automakers are clearly going about their strategy with assuredness. Gone are the days of inferior product quality, or design & technology that were allegedly copied. They are creating their own IPs, and are at par with other manufacturers when we talk about engineering, technology, innovation or R&D.
A similar analogy can be drawn from the mobile phone industry. Compare Chinese phone makers of the past with the ones today. Consider how the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus, Vivo and Oppo have outsmarted the earlier kings of the trade, brands such as Samsung. And they’ve done it quick, retaining the VFM status, yet offering technology that competes with any other global brands and often surpassing them.
It won’t be that easy in the vehicle space though. But don’t be surprised if they start to create dents even before you know they are.
DEEPANGSHU DEV SARMAH
New Delhi, November 2018