HomeAnalysisHaval has landed in Zim

Haval has landed in Zim

Andrew Muzamhindo

FOLKS, this is a brand coming to conquer the world! It is simply sumptuous and value for money — one of the finest sport utility vehicles I have ever seen.

Remember Toyota. Remember Hyundai. They rose from obscurity to become world-renowned brands.

Haval is a brand backed by one of the world’s biggest economies out to prove a point. I was chatting with Zimoco’ s chief executive Bob Crossley last Saturday, and he told me how the Haval factory in China is one of the best if not the best motoring manufacturing plant he has seen. The Chinese mean business.

Haval is owned by Great Wall Motors (GWM). It was created in 2006 as an SUV sub-brand of GWM and aspires to become the world’s best-selling SUV brand, overtaking Jeep and Land Rover.

They own a multi-billion-dollar factory near Baoding. It has a sprawling complex with over 7 000 staff, dominated by a 24-storey skyscraper — and its million-unit annual-capacity factory with high-speed test track and 24/7 automated line. That is the product that has just landed in Zimbabwe.

Haval sells a million units per year in China. It sells at least 700 units in South Africa per month.

And, wait, it sold close to 3 000 units in Australia in 2017!

Remember 20 or so years ago, when Hyundais and Kias starting popping up on Zimbabwean roads? We exclaimed, “Korean Jeez!” But now they are among the world’s leading brands in the industry. How did they do it? They got expertise from leading brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW to do their designs and mange manufacturing. Haval has done the same, and even better!

They have come up with a product that has both quality and offers value for money.

Haval is sitting now where the Koreans were in the 1990s and where the Japanese were in the 1950s. It is an uphill battle, and the only way they are going to get accepted on the market is by churning out excellent products to compete with your Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, Audi, BMW and others. They have done that.

Havals are solid. The interior, along with being impressively stacked with tech for the money, screams quality and is well put together. They have an impeccable driving experience. The H9 has an 8-speed auto ZF made-in-Germany gearbox. It is awesome, and gets the best out of the composed and willing 2-litre turbo-charged motor. NVH levels are great, and the suspension is quite comfortable on the rough, crappy roads we all know and love in Zimbabwe. There is something Prado about it, though it looks like a Nissan Patrol as well.

Haval H9 is equipped with a high-strength frame that performs with confidence under the most extreme conditions, a crumple energy absorbing steering column, airbags all round and a tyre pressure-monitoring system make the H9 a highly efficient SUV performing with maximised safety. Pretension safety belts and ISO- fix child seat anchors round off the H9’s comprehensive safety features.

The world is moving. Ten years from now, diesel cars might not be produced. Mercedes is phasing out diesel cars. It is a dirty fuel. The top dog in the Haval range the H9, has a 2-litre turbo boosted petrol engine. The compression ratio has been upped a bit lately, which improves the power (180kW @ 5,500rpm) and torque (350Nm @ 1,800-4,500rpm).

It is a pretty good motor; quiet and willing, running through the 8-speed gearbox to give reasonable performance. It is never giving you more power than you can handle, but it is definitely adequate.

There is a gigantic panoramic roof, tri-zone climate control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other safety considerations include six airbags and the usual gamut of electronic driving aids. There is also xenon HID lights, which swivel around corners with steering wheel inputs.

The suspension is double-wishbone independent coiled struts on the front and a five-link trailing arm set-up on the rear. Like the Prado, it is tuned for comfort and sponginess . . . in a good way. It articulates quite well in the rear, meaning the locked axle can push you up some fairly challenging stuff. It is a proper 4WD, no doubt about it.

Haval H9 is equipped with a high strength frame that performs with confidence under the most extreme conditions, a crumple energy absorbing steering column, airbags all round and a tyre pressure monitoring system make the H9 an highly efficient SUV performing with maximised safety.

The Haval H9 has a lot of similarities to something like a Prado or Everest, although it is not completely of the same ilk. It is all about massive luxury “bang for your buck” whilst still giving you a genuine 4WD that can tackle some rough tracks.

We spent time in the unfortunately coal-fire-polluted city of Baoding with the senior-most pair of hires: Gerhard Henning, GWM’s transmission development chief who was once a senior engineer with Daimler on 9ATs and pre-DSG Volkswagen; and GWM head powertrain engineer, Koen Kramer, former turbo engineer at Daimler and BMW.

The H6 has a remarkable 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine called the 4B15, making 124kW of power and an unusually high 285Nm of peak torque from a low 1400rpm. It’s matched with a new seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

Former employees of German brands who are now with Haval say it now has better production machinery for die casting and machining than their former employers, VW and Daimler — mostly Swiss and German machines that cost huge money — and superior software logic, including programmes to control noise suppression.

“Our benchmarks are the leading German vehicle manufacturers. We always compare and we have benchmark vehicles,” said Gerhard Hennings, Haval’s executive chief engineer. I put all my experience in testing — fatigue component testing and bench testing. We made a new building with 13 test benches running automatically around the clock. No other Chinese original equipment manufacturer has such a centre,” Henning added.

Haval is fully dedicated to supporting the Zimbabwean market and is expecting to make serious in-roads into the local SUV market, selling quality vehicles at extremely reasonable prices. The most expensive which is the H9 is US$68 000. With all those gizmos and comfort, I would first look at Haval before considering established brands. This is also because of the world-class back-up service that Zimoco is known for. The H2 would be for managers, the H6 for senior managers whilst the H9 can be for senior managers, directors and CEOs.

Emphasising on the point that Zimoco are looking to become a cornerstone of the Zimbabwean SUV segment, Manfred Chaniwa of Zimoco made no secret of the intention.

“We at Zimoco are very proud of our brand, and appreciate just how important our customers are. It’s imperative that they know they can have peace of mind purchasing a Haval, which we expect to become a brand to be reckoned with on the local front,” he remarked.


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