A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that brands like Honda and Volkswagen wouldn’t be top-10 sellers in Australia.
It would have been even more ludicrous to suggest that MG would be knocking on the door of the top five, or that premium manufacturer Mercedes-Benz would be among the most popular brands in the country. But here we are.
Something else that would have been a pipe dream only a few years ago was that Chinese manufacturer GWM would penetrate Australia’s top 10.
The bullish brand is expecting a big sales uptick this year, and it has a medium-term goal of embedding itself as a top-10 player Down Under on the back of an expanded product range.
While the company has struggled with the same supply issues impacting virtually every carmaker, GWM Australia head of marketing Steve Maciver said that will improve in the second half of the year, giving GWM a sales boost.
“The numbers that we have seen, and that we’ve been told by the factory we can expect to get in the coming months, will put us on pace for another record performance this year. And our sense, we think will end up in excess of 20,000 this year,” he told CarsGuide recently.
That figure is a huge departure from where GWM has been in the recent past. In its early iteration as Great Wall, its biggest sales year was 2012 when it sold just over 11,000 units. Since becoming a factory-backed operation in 2016, sales have increased from 3107 units in pre-pandemic 2019, hitting a high of 18,384 last year.
That 2021 figure placed GWM 13th overall for sales last year behind Mercedes-Benz (28,348) in 11th and BMW (24,891) in 12th. But GWM sold more cars last year than established mainstream brands like Honda (17,562) and Suzuki (17,468).
Mr Maciver said the plan was to grow in a measured way in Australia, but the ambition was to be a top-10 player.
“We’ve got a strategy of healthy, sustainable growth. We’re not doing anything silly to get to a number. We believe there’s a lot more organic growth in the brand. I think as the product line-up improves, as the product line increases, and it will increase over the next 12-to-18 months, and as we increase the dealer network, we’re going to see organic growth come from that,” he said.
“Now I wouldn’t put a number on what we’ll be doing in 2023 and beyond, but the ambition absolutely is to be a top-10 brand, as you can see with VFACTS, we’re getting pretty close to that today with what we have.”
GWM is expected to bulk out the line-up in a number of ways. For the GWM Ute range, expect to see a tradie-friendly cab-chassis and single-cab version of the Ute soon, as well as an electric version eventually. There’s a Ford Ranger Raptor-rivalling off-road ute coming too, and a larger ute known in China as the King Kong.
On the SUV front, the GWM Tank brand will land soon with the 300 medium and 500 large SUVs that are built on dedicated off-road platforms. They are both also likely to be offered with hybrid powertrains.
GWM’s electric brand Ora is also on the horizon, leading with the small hatch known as the Ora Good Cat in some markets, while another model will join down the track.
Mr Maciver said that buyers are coming from other brands into the GWM fold, especially the SUV models.
“In the ute segment, for example, we don’t do a lot of conquest from the likes of HiLux and Ranger, because they’re selling at a much higher price point. But generally most of the other brands within that segment we are conquesting from are equally in the SUV space.”
Another measure of success, according to Mr Maciver, is the mix of sales in 2022 compared with the early days, with Aussie buyers increasingly opting for pricier, higher-grade models.
“Obviously if you look at our line-up three years ago, we were selling (Haval) H2s at $19,990, $22,990. So, the average selling price was the low $20,000s. The average selling price of a GWM now is in the mid-to-high 30s. That’s how quickly our model line-up and our buyer base has shifted and transformed.
“And it’s pleasing that not only have we been able to bring more expensive, more premium products to market, but the Australian car buyers are absolutely embracing them.”
Mr Maciver added that the average age of buyers had also come down thanks to newer, more visually appealing models like the Jolion, H6 and recently launched H6 GT SUVs.