Great Wall Motors (GWM) could be the brand that makes electric vehicles (EV) worth considering in South Africa.
GWM entered the commercial-vehicle segment in early 2007 and has since gone from strength to strength to consistently become one of the best-selling car manufacturers in the country.
A decade after its debut, GWM launched a second brand in South Africa that was exclusively focused on SUVs – Haval.
Haval proved to be even more popular than its parent company, likely due to its high-riders offering premium features and attractive designs coupled with relatively affordable price tags.
Now, if GWM really wants to cement itself as a Chinese brand that’s here to stay, we think it should also bring its Ora electric cars over to South Africa.
Electric cars in South Africa
Electric cars have attracted much attention in South Africa in recent years, as evidenced by local sales figures for New Energy Vehicles (NEVs).
During the first quarter of 2022, over 112 EVs have already been sold in the domestic market, which is compared to roughly 200 during the entirety of 2021, and only 92 in 2020.
Moreover, since the start of 2021 no fewer than 10 new EVs were launched in the country, whereas more than eight are still destined to arrive throughout the remainder of 2022.
None of these vehicles can exactly be called “affordable”, though, except for the Eleksa CityBug that entered the market in January 2022 for a starting price of R230,000.
However, this is a small EV generally used for last-mile deliveries and short-distance transport, and not a replacement for a full-sized car.
The next best option for consumers wanting a battery-powered vehicle is the R709,400 Mini Cooper SE – which is another relatively compact hatch with only 215km of range, making it somewhat impractical and still not very cheap.
Judging from GWM and Haval’s current offerings, Ora’s electric cars will likely slot in between the Eleksa and Mini, filling in a huge gap in the local market.
It came with a 35kWh battery and roughly 350km of range, and was rumoured to cost between R127,000-R164,000 in early 2020.
Fast forward to late 2021, Ora reveals the Cat, a five-door hatchback with a 63kWh battery and a 420km driving range.
It also boasts a 0-100km/h time of 8.5 seconds, as well as a cabin that’s decked out with a 10.25-inch infotainment display, a 360-degree camera system, advanced driver assistance features, and over-the-air software updates.
The Cat is expected to have a starting price of R550,000 in the United Kingdom, according to CleanTechnica – making it cheaper and more sensible than its closest competitor in our market, the Mini SE.
The R1 and Cat are yet to go on sale but, depending on the model, they are already confirmed for markets including China, India, Nepal, and the United Kingdom – meaning right-hand-drive variants are being produced.
A few additional Ora cars under the names “Ballet” and “Punk Cat” are reportedly also in the works.
With its current track record, GWM clearly knows what makes the South African market tick.
If it takes the plunge and brings Ora to our shores to sell its EVs for a more affordable price than what is currently on offer, we’re willing to be it will only strengthen the local love affair with all three brands under the GWM umbrella.
Doing this will also make GWM the first major automaker to enter an untapped segment in South Africa that desperately needs more attention – the segment of affordable electric cars.