GAC: true challenger or trompe l’oeuil?
A year after fellow Chinese OEMs Chery, SAIC and Great Wall set up camp in Frankfurt, GAC has come to Paris to underline it is serious about conquering Europe, too. It chose the Mondial de l’Automobile to show its GS5, a prototype of a midsized SUV that should be ready to hit the showrooms by 2020.
That sounds ambitious. Compared to the cars shown by Vinfast, the Vietnamese brand that also made its debut in Paris, the GAC GS5 seems closer to production nonetheless. That is only logical: Vinfast is brand new, whereas GAC is an OEM with over two decades of experience.
Based in Guangzhou (hence the G in GAC), it sells cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles under the Trumpchi, Gonow and Changfeng brand. GAC also has established joint-ventures with a total of five foreign partners, which is more than most Chinese automakers. It currently builds Fiats, Hondas, Mitsubishis and Toyotas for the domestic market.
The European conqueror
The model that GAC showed in Europe is a D-segment SUV the size of a Volvo XC60, but with clear visual references to the VW Touareg, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Toyota RAV4, to name just a few.
Power comes from a 1.5 four-cylinder petrol unit mated to an Aisin-sourced 6-speed automatic. Nothing out of the ordinary, but GAC says electrified models will follow. It seems less ambitious in this respect than Chery, Great Wall or even the relatively small Borgward for that matter.
Still, GAC is perhaps the closest to becoming a more or less regular sight on Western European roads: its cars are already on sale in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and some Eastern European markets.
Picture copyright: Dieter Quartier, 2018