Hongguang Mini EVs comes in around 20 different base colours, which can be switched up and buyers can customise the interior as well.
Since last July, a little-known automaker in China’s southwest has dominated the world’s largest electric car market, outselling bigger players and even Tesla Inc. almost every month with a tiny, bare-bones EV that starts at just $4,500.
The Hongguang Mini is the brainchild of SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., a joint venture between SAIC Motor Corp. and Guangxi Automobile Group Co., two state-backed automakers, and U.S. giant General Motors Co.
Based in the city of Liuzhou, known for its limestone mountains and river-snail soup, the company -- which has sold some 270,000 of the cars within nine months, making it the best-selling EV in China -- has even bigger ambitions for the future. It’s aiming for annual sales of 1.2 million vehicles next year, almost equal to the number of EVs churned out by China’s carmakers in 2020 combined.
The buyers of those gas-guzzling gray vans are almost exclusively male, which makes Wuling’s pivot to the Hongguang Mini -- which has a top speed of 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour and 12-inch wheels -- all the more extraordinary. Shortly after its debut last July, the automaker realized the vehicle was gaining a following among young women, a phenomenon it leaned into with an approach that bends conventional wisdom about how cars are sold.
“Our company’s mentality is to produce whatever people need," Wuling’s head of branding and marketing, Zhang Yiqin, said in an interview. “We keep close tabs on our users. The hurdles to electric car adoption can only be cleared when consumers find using them a comfortable thing."
To that end, Zhang has staffed his team with employees who understand the Hongguang Mini’s customer base, which is now around two-thirds female. At 35, he jokes he’s the elder statesman of the group whose age averages around 27. Slogans like ‘Young and Eager’ are splashed across the walls of Wuling’s headquarters in Liuzhou, a city that’s embraced EVs alongside the company with 30% of all car sales electric last year, the highest rate in China, according to WAYS Information Technology.