The second challenge is a branding one. In the rare mature markets where they have ventured so far, Chinese manufacturers have to deal with the same level of hostility Japanese carmakers had to suffer in the 1950s and 1960s, then Korean carmakers in the 1980s – some would argue until just recently. Launched in 2009 in Australia, Great Wall has been the only success story of its kind so far here, peaking at #16 in 2011 and selling 37.163 units to-date. An asbestos controversy and disagreement with its previous importer Ateco has meant the brand is currently at a standstill (11 sales in 2016), but is staging a comeback later this year with the new generation Wingle 6 pickup through the same importer as Haval: Performax.
Even though insults continue to be hurled at the brand on local automotive forums, they mostly come from customers having never tested a Great Wall vehicle, whereas owners are by and large very satisfied with the reliability of their purchase, especially in the Australian Outback: in 2014 I met a Great Wall owner in Bourke who replaced her ailing Toyota Hilux with a Great Wall SUV and has never looked back since.
There are only a handful of other Chinese carmakers operating in Australia currently, but none is coming anywhere near the success Great Wall achieved in its first couple of years in market. LDV (625 sales) and Foton (356) both hold a tiny 0.1% market share so far in 2016, whereas Chery has all but disappeared (9) and both Geely and MG have thrown the towel for now. In other words, market conditions are at an all-time low for Chinese carmakers in Australia and adverse perceptions at an all-time high.
If the H9 is expected to go anywhere, testing the H8 is where the true challenge resides, as it is what is called in Australia an AWD SUV, meaning the 4WD mode is switched on electronically when the car feels it needs it, prompting some to say it’s not a real 4WD. Add to this the fact that China hasn’t really yet caught up with the worldwide off-road driving fever – most SUVs and crossovers sold there are 2WD-only and never get taken out of the city – it begs the question: is the H8 actually a true 4WD-capable vehicle and can it perform on very poor road conditions? Australia has a long tradition of off-road exploring and true adventure, so it’s the perfect sandpit for such a test.
More generally, can Haval back up its claim of No.1 SUV brand in China and aspirations of becoming the No. 1 SUV brand in the world with truly capable cars? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s called a wet and muddy Birdsville Track. Before we can set off though, our H8 needs a name. After Albert, Bob the Rams and Charlie our Hawaii Jeep Wrangler, H8’s name has to start with D and he has been baptised Damo – Aussie short for Damian – so he fits in with all the other kids in the yard (See why I chose a male name here). Indeed in Australia, and in particular in the Outback, no name stays intact – even Matt becomes Matty – and all are fondly played with: Jonathan becomes Jono, Dick becomes Dicko. And it doesn’t stop with names: see favourite Australian slang: When in doubt, add an “o”. Welcome to the Australian Outback, Damo.
HAVAL is a specialist manufacturer of premium SUVs and is the No.1 SUV brand in the world’s largest automotive market and has been for the past 15 years. In 2017 Brand Finance valued HAVAL as the "world's most powerful SUV brand" ahead of Jeep and Land Rover. With over 5 million customers, last year HAVAL was the world’s 10th largest SUV manufacturer outselling Mercedes, BMW and Mitsubishi SUVs. Our success is due to a combination of commitment, passion and listening to our customers. We utilise the best features, safety and technologies from around the globe to produce world class SUVs.
*HAVAL Motors Australia reserves the right to change the information including, but not limited to the models, prices, colors, materials, equipment or other specifications referred to on this site at any time without prior notice. Always consult your HAVAL dealer for latest specifications, availability and pricing. Images for illustration purposes only.
If you need assistance contact our Customer Care department by completing the online form or calling the 1800 076 530 number.