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Editor: John Mortimer
Wednesday, 9 December 2015
SAIC poised to pounce on UK van market?
Van dealerships in the UK may be wondering if the Maxus van could make a
return to the country if SAIC is able to undercut established marques. Although there are no
significant, tangible ripples to that effect on the surface, it is just possible the
China-based company is taking a hard look at the UK market as a potential
stepping stone into Europe, as the GAZ version of Maxus, the GAZelle NEXT, gathers momentum.
With the Maxus van having
some pedigree with the UK market through its former links with the initial creator, LDV Ltd of Washbrook,
Birmingham, there is good reason to think the van could
make a return, with sights set on taking some of the market from Iveco,
Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen in particular.
SAIC claims to be the
largest manufacture of vehicles it China. It also acquired the rights to MG and
has a manufacturing site in Longbridge, Birmingham in addition to facilities in
Lingang and Nanjing, China.
There is also the SAIC
Motor UK Technical Centre which claims to have “wide-ranging work designing,
developing and engineering advanced new vehicle and powertrain products for
SAIC Motor, one of the world's largest automotive manufacturers and owner of the
world-famous MG marque.”
Putting these facets
together, and the company's increased activity with its version of the former
LDV Maxus panel van, it is not beyond the wit of man to consider the
possibility that SAIC officials may have decided the UK could be a useful launch
pad for the van.
Besides staff at MG there is
still a number of key people in the UK who might have knowledge of good
potential dealer sites that might be interested in selling the China-made
Added to which, there must
be a number of important, former LDV customers who might favour returning to
the marque, given sufficient inducement.
And, with Ford having renounced
the UK, in terms of both van and passenger car manufacture (leaving Vauxhall as
the only UK van maker), there is even the possibility that someone in China might
think it worthwhile to assemble the SAIC Maxus once sales volume have built up
to significant levels. The UK nevertheless remains a viable production location for the likes of Honda, JaguarLandRover, Nissan and Toyota.
With key names like Iveco,
Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Vauxhall and Volkswagen being the main competitors it
is possible that SAIC officials in China and the UK may just consider there is
sufficient slack in the market-place for just one more marque, if forecourt
prices can be made sufficiently attractive to temp newcomers to buy the Maxus
Many van users are more
concerned about price than where a van originates, and these will be the first
candidates for any new potential salesmen seeking to find inroads into the UK
In the first eleven months
of 2015, vehicles under 3.5 tonnes (in the main these are vans) accounted for
unit sales of 341,400, of which the top four accounted for 202,875 vehicles.
The top four were: Ford, 92,311; Volkswagen, 40,610; Vauxhall, 37,879; and Peugeot,
Vehicles between 3.5 and 6
tonnes accounted for 7,391 units in the first 11 months of 2015, including
November, of which the top four contributed 90 per cent. The top four were:
Ford, 2,594; Fiat, 1,780; Mercedes-Benz, 1,678; and Peugeot, 622.
SAIC of course will access
to such figures and can make up its own mind as to the share it could reasonably
take. First in line to attack will be Ford, Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Peugeot.
SAIC officials may well
consider an 0.3 per cent slice of the UK cake would be a good start. That is,
around 900 vehicles, a figure which would more or less match Renault's 2015
sales total so far of 872. This would take some beating, but in the first
instance the figure might look like a reasonable target, i.e. 80 per month.
In terms of production,
SAIC might be happy with a figure of 12,000 a year, or 1,000 a month would
provide the basis for growth and expansion into a small number of European
With a number of vehicle
testing sites available, including the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire
with its inside knowledge of the Vauxhall Vivaro, and VM Motori quite close by
in Cento, Italy, SAIC might be able to make a good case for local assembly in its
facility in Birmingham - not a million miles from Washbrook