2020 was not a good year for most. Economies collapsed, major corporations fell into bankruptcy and thousands of people lost their jobs as a consequence. However, amongst this darkness the Pakistani automobile industry became a bright spot.
Despite production figures falling for established automakers – Honda, Toyota, and Suzuki – five new companies entered the market. Changan, Hyundai, MG, Proton and Regal Motors all launched new cars in 2020 and despite the odds most received booking orders in excess of their production capacity.
The Correspondent takes a look at the new players in the market, who they partnered with to begin operations in Pakistan, and their widely acclaimed offerings.
Changan – Master Motors
Changan came into Pakistan this year with the help of Master Motors, an established bus and truck manufacturer and part of the Master Group of Industries. They launched the only sedan in this list in the form of the new Changan Alsvin; which comes with a choice of inline 4-cylinder engines and a 5-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Changan are one of China’s big 4 state owned automobile manufacturers and have enjoyed much success in their native country. They will be hoping to do the same with the Alsvin in Pakistan.
Hyundai – Nishat
One of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers brought their Tucson crossover to Pakistan this year with a 2.0 liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine. The Tucson was one of Pakistan’s most awaited vehicles and this enthusiasm for the new crossover was mirrored in terms of bookings as Hyundai received orders for all of its initial price units within days of the Tucson’s launch. The Tucson bares a remarkable resemblance to the 2019 entrant, the KIA Sportage, and is also its main competitor. This seems like a strange move, however, since Hyundai owns a 39% stake in KIA Motors.
Keeping in mind that this is Hyundai’s second foray into the Pakistani market, maybe they are just diversifying risk. Their previous entry was with the Dewan Farooque Group in the mid-2000s. However, low sales volumes and a global recession prompted an early exit. The Seoul based manufacturer will be hoping that its latest adventure with the Nishat Group, who own both DG Cement and MCB, will be more successful.
MG – JW Automobiles
Another entrant in the growing crossover market for 2020 is the MG HS which comes with a 1.5 liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. Morris Garages started out as British manufacturer which was famous for its sports cars and racing heritage. The company was part of the MG Rover group which went into receivership in 2005. It was taken over by SAIC, a Fortune 500 company and another one of China’s Big 4, and production in China began in 2007. During MG’s launch event they tried their best to allude to the brand’s British heritage by surrounding the cars with the Union Jack and choreographing dances to the Bond theme song. However, one would be hard pressed to think that Bond would ever drive an MG HS.
MG comes into the market with JW Automobiles whose owner, Javed Afridi, has interests in the PSL team Peshawar Zalmi and is the CEO of Haier Pakistan.
Proton – Al Haj
The Malay manufacturer is testing the Pakistani market with its own crossover, the Proton X70. It also comes with a 1.5 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch crossover. Proton is partly owned by Geely and partly owned by DRB HICOM. Geely and DRB HICOM also have controlling interests in British auto manufacturer Lotus. However, the X70 is not a Lotus design but rather just a rebadged Geely Boyue.
Proton’s local partner in this venture is the Al Haj group, which is an emerging conglomerate that has interests in Oil & Gas, Fuel Procurement, Heavy Mining and Textile. They are also the local assemblers of FAW heavy commercial vehicles.
Regal Motors – DFSK & Prince
The last two entries on our list were brought to Pakistan by Regal Motors in cooperation with DFSK. Earlier this year they launched the Prince Pearl, an 800 cc 3-cylinder compact car for the budget minded consumer. Their latest entry, however, is a midsize SUV called the Glory 580 Pro. This 7-seater vehicle is an upmarket version of the 580 launched last year and is also powered by a 1.5 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Those interested in these two vehicles will also be happy to know that Regal Motors already has a network of 3 dealerships in most major cities across the country.
What have the Big 3 been upto?
Well, not much. With so many new entrants in the market, the established Big 3 of the Pakistani automobile industry were expected to respond with new additions to their own lineups. However, Toyota was the only one who brought out a new car in 2020: the Toyota Yaris.
What does this mean for the Pakistani market?
A lack of competition has plagued the Pakistani market for decades but this year has shown signs of change. With the addition of so many new cars the market is bound to change for the better. These newer vehicles bring with them safety features like multiple airbags and stability control as standard, something that is still not common within the Pakistani market. The Honda City still does not have these features despite having an MSRP of almost 3 million rupees.
Overall, consumers will be happy to have more choices available to them even if established manufacturers do not change their ways. For as long as they have the ability to choose, they can always opt for the car that suits them best.