Like load shedding, great Chinese car numbers have become the new normal in South Africa. Gone are the days when we turned up our noses at "Made in China" labels. News24 Motoring editor Janine Van der Post looks at Chery and Haval's sales figures for October and realises these brands are on a positive trajectory that won't slump any time soon.
Remember a time when we looked at an item's label, and it read 'Made in China'? Whether it was toys, clothing or anything, we judged its quality as flimsy and cheap. Or you thought it wouldn't last very long and broke before you could even take the said item home.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and some of the world's largest technology companies and automakers hail from the land of the Great Wall. Around my area, the local Chinese shops have been upgraded; they're bigger and more sophisticated, product quality has improved, and they're all the rave. 'Made in China' now means quality is their A-game. The same applies to their cars.
Month by month, Haval and Chery have been consistent in their excellent sales numbers. South Africans are clearly choosing Chinese brands over more established ones. I've said this before earlier this year - but with Europe's focus on electric mobility and no longer producing diesel-driven cars, it's opening a vast gateway for Chinese automakers this side of the globe.
Chery relaunched the brand towards the end of last year. Since then, they've brought in three new models, which are all selling well every month. They have their "entry-level" Tiggo 4 Pro, the medium-sized Tiggo 7 Pro, and their halo model, the Tiggo 8 Pro.
From little QQs wanting to fall apart on the highway when you hit 100km/h to well-built vehicles which open the standard sunroof via voice command. Yes, you just say, 'Hey, Chery, open sunroof', and the car obeys your instruction.
Chery has come a long way since the first models they launched many years ago. Their cars no longer feel like the plastic fidget toys you once bought at the bulk Chinese shop. No sir, now they're savvy, good-looking, well-built products local motorists are falling over their feet to buy. And, the most significant factor - they don't have that awful "cheap" smell we've loved to hate in former years. Now, they even smell better.
In the past few months, Chery has consistently sold more than 1 100 models, and this was no different in October when they sold 1 229 vehicles: 695 Tiggo 4 Pro, 369 Tiggo 7 Pro and 165 units of their range-topping Tiggo 8 Pro, according to the National Automobile Association of Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) monthly report.
While Chery is showing unwavering results, our spotlight falls on Haval.
The carmaker recently bolstered its local line-up with the launch of a new performance H6 GT model, along with a hybrid H6 version. We currently don't know the model split in the available line-up, but the latest versions have definitely had a positive impact.
Only one H2 was sold last month, along with three H9s, but 956 H6 cars found new homes in October, along with 867 prevalent Jolion models. Besides the improved quality issues, these automakers are finding their rhythm here in South Africa. It helps significantly that their cars are also quite pleasing to the eye, but their biggest trump card is pricing. Because these vehicles are mass-produced at alarming rates, and supply is not an issue for the growing demand, both Chery and Haval have nailed their pricing modules, making their products more in reach for local buyers who want to buy really good but affordable cars.
The Chery Tiggo 4 Pro is priced from R289 900 for its entry-level Urban model - and we're talking about enough standard equipment to make a deluxe suite at the One and Only Hotel blush. Even the Tiggo 8 Pro, in Executive trim, comes in under R600 000 at R574 900.
Haval's Jolion pricing starts from R342 950, and while the H6 model range starts from R479 950, as mentioned, both brands come fully loaded with all the bells and whistles you could think of - that's a whole lot of value-for-money offerings.
To put these Chinese car sales stats in an even better perspective, Haval sold more passenger cars (1 827) than Kia Motors (1 588), Nissan (1 408), BMW (946) and Mercedes-Benz (697) in October.
Haval's light commercial numbers after enduring some supply issues in this segment are also worth mentioning. Their sales figures had dropped significantly in August and September, but this was purely down to stock issues. It's safe to say the ships have come in since the automaker also moved 426 units of its luxurious P-Series pick-up truck and 349 units of its GWM Steed bakkie.
Now, these brands only have to work on their fuel consumption readings which are slightly heavier than desired, and they'll have the big players in their sights too to claim the title as some of the most popular car brands in South Africa.