Bring the prices of EVs down, and people will buy. That’s the latest lesson from China, where customers took delivery of an astonishing 200,000 Wuling Hongguang Mini EVs in the vehicle’s first 200 days of production. According to the Asian auto industry gurus at ZoZo Go, it’s the strongest product debut in the history of four-wheeled vehicles.
The Mini EV (no relation to the MINI brand owned by BMW) comes in two- and four-seater versions. It has a range of 106 miles and a top speed of 62 mph, and sells for between $4,500 and $6,300. It’s built by SGMW, a three-way joint venture of Shanghai Automotive, GM and Wuling Motors.
Even SGMW executives were surprised by the little car’s runaway success—they were expecting about 3,000 sales a month, but January’s figure was ten times that—enough to steal the title of world’s best-selling EV from Tesla’s Model 3. As ZoZo Go notes, the fact that the company was able to deliver so many is an impressive testament to the agility of its supply chain.
The story behind this blockbuster hit reads like one of those show-biz bios in which record execs pooh-pooh a concept that later turns out to be an artist’s best-selling album. As ZoZo Go recounts, GM leaders in Detroit were dismissive of the SGMW joint venture when it was initially proposed back in 2001. Former China GM CEO Phil Murtaugh insisted that a partnership with Wuling would teach GM how to build low-cost cars, which had become a lost art for the giant automaker. He eventually prevailed, and the rest is history—last year SGMW sold 1.6 million vehicles, over half of GM’s total sales in China.
Demand for the Mini EV continues to soar, and the company may look to expand sales beyond China. “Businesspeople from over 150 counties and regions are asking us when we will sell cars there,” Zhou Xing, a senior executive of Wuling, told China Daily.
Another moral of the story: there’s more than one way to get drivers to go electric. “It is about how you consider the electric car segment,” said Zhou. “Many followed suit by launching coupe-style sedans and SUVs resembling Tesla’s. We did a different thing by focusing on the last miles of mobility.”