SAIC-GM-Wuling Getting Ready To Unleash Another Smash Hit, The KiWi All-Wheel Drive Mini Electric SUV

The SAIC, GM and Wuling joint venture released a smashed car in China around mid-2020 at the height of the global coronavirus pandemic. The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV caused so much excitement in China and has helped create a whole new market for mini electric cars. In just over 2 and a half years, it has sold close to a million units in China. The Mini EV is very popular in the 2nd and 3rd tier Chinese cities and allows people who wouldn’t have been able to afford a car to be able to get a decently affordable vehicle. Starting at just $4,200, the Mini EV’s appeal to “non-consumers” (the market not traditionally targeted by automakers) has real potential to disrupt the auto industry. We can say that it not only has the potential to disrupt, but has already begun to disrupt the car market in China to some extent.

The success of the Hongguang Mini EV shows that there is a huge market for these basic electric cars. Several Chinese companies have also realized this and have come up with their own mini electric cars. Some of the major players in China’s hugely popular Low Speed ​​Electric Vehicle (LSEV) segment, such as Levdeo, have also added vehicles in the mini EV category. Levdeo introduced Letin Mango EV. Other notable mini electric cars include the Jemmel Lingbox Coco, which starts at around $4,100, good value for a car with a 30kW motor that produces 95Nm of torque and a range of 120km (NEDC) from an LFP battery. Pocco Mei Mei, Cherry’s QQ Ice Cream and its many flavors, as well as Geely’s Panda Mini EV, are some of the other mini EVs.

The SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture has also been proactive and not sitting on the sidelines as more players enter the mini EV market. The joint venture has released several iterations of the mini EV, including the Gameboy Edition, the colorful Macaron version and the Cabriolet, as well as the upgraded version that gave it a slightly longer wheelbase and a 26 kWh battery, up from 9.2 kWh and 13.8 kWh in the first models. It also gets a more powerful electric motor upgraded to 30 kW from the previous 20 kW. Another version, Wuling Air, is already produced in Indonesia and is aimed at the export market.

Now, the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture company is taking things up another notch and is about to introduce an all-wheel drive 3-door electric mini SUV that is in the same class of vehicle as the very popular ICE Suzuki Jimny. This all-wheel drive electric mini SUV will be under the KiWi brand. Here’s a video of the electric mini SUV undergoing testing in China. It is set to go on sale in the first quarter of this year. According to CarNewsChina, this off-road KiWi mini electric SUV will have two electric motors that provide a total output of around 110 hp. In tests, it has also been seen with two 10.25-inch screens on the dashboard. Carscoops reports that this mini electric SUV could get a 31.9 kWh battery similar to that of the KiWi Plus mini EV, which would give it a decent EV range that could be around 300 km (NEDC).

The KiWi mini SUV is potentially disrupting another popular vehicle market segment for small off-road SUVs. The very popular Suzuki Jimny’s current version has a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that has a 75kW, 100hp engine and a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox. Around 3 million Suzuki Jimnys have been sold in over 190 countries since 1970. With its two electric motors producing 110 hp, equivalent to the Jimny, the KiWi electric mini SUV is well equipped to excite this vehicle segment.

The Jimny is small, simple, affordable and has good off-road capabilities, which make it a favorite of many car enthusiasts. The Jimny starts at around $20,000 in South Africa and other similar markets for example, and if the electric KiWi mini SUV is priced in that range, it will surely sell like hotcakes once it is introduced to the global market. Another advantage that the KiWi mini electric SUV would have is its ground clearance and off-road capability to handle some of the interesting roads in many developing countries. Some of the roads we have in some urban and rural areas became some of the biggest discussion points in forums and platforms when the $5,000 Chinese mini EV (Hongguang Mini EV) was brought up in conversations. Many comments bring things like “the ground clearance is a bit too low and the car is a bit too small compared to some of the popular used vehicles that dominate car imports in several developing countries.” Of course, the Wuling Mini EV would cost a lot more than $5,000 after shipping and import costs, but it should still land at prices quite competitive with some of the 8- or 10-year-old ICE vehicles that are the popular imports.

Although the Hongguang Mini EV is not as small as one might think, the KiWi mini electric SUV would appeal to a wider audience if it were to be introduced on the African continent, for example. It is bigger and more practical than the Hongguang mini EV. It could also be popular as a basic city car with its decent range and not just for its off-road capabilities. Some of its strong selling points could include its appealing retro styling that resembles the latest version of the Suzuki Jimny, along with its modern interior that includes the 2 touchscreens.

Another potential market besides daily use in the city could be for use by campus-based businesses such as farms, mines, educational and health facilities, nature reserves and wildlife parks. What are the chances we’ll see other players follow suit with their own versions of this mini electric off-road vehicle? Probably very high. Looking forward to seeing how this mini EV sector develops. This is a segment that could be truly transformative for many developing countries.




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