July 31, 2021

Chinese builders for dummies: GreatWall

Existing for more than 25 years, GreatWall has become one of the main Chinese manufacturers, thanks to its wide range of SUVs. It is also one of the manufacturers who sought to export the earliest.

The historical figure of Greatwall is Wei Jianjun, born in 1964 in Baoding. Who nevertheless remains much more discreet in the media than Li Shufu at Geely or Wang Shuanfu at BYD. Following the death of his uncle Wei Deliang, in 1990 he took over the management of his company GreatWall Industry Corporation, which specializes in automobile repairs and the manufacture of spare parts. The Hebei government remaining a shareholder. As the capital evolves, Wei Jianjun and his family will eventually become majority shareholders.

Wei Jianjun quickly embarked on the project of creating a car. The first model appeared in 1993, the CC1020 sedan very similar to a Nissan Cedric (Y30). Its production must nevertheless cease in 1994 in the absence of authorization. He then turned to the pick-up market, which seemed to him to be more lucrative. He then took the Toyota Hilux as an example to launch the GreatWall Deer in 1996. Thanks to its very low price (between 60 and 70,000 yuan), it quickly turned into a success. From October 1997, the first copies were exported to the Middle East. In 1998, with 7000 copies (on a Chinese market then very small), it is the best-selling pick-up.

At the end of 1999, Greawall began to make significant investments to become independent in terms of engines. Its models are then fitted with engines supplied by a subsidiary of Brilliance. Who is also one of the founders of a new rival of Greatwall, ZXAuto also established in the province of Hebei.

After a second pick-up model (Sailor), Greatwall launched its first SUV in 2002. The Severin (Saifu – 赛弗) is modeled on the Toyota 4Runner, and from 2003 it will be the best-selling SUV in China. It will be followed in 2005 by the model which will be the real success of the brand. The Hover, copied from the Isuzu Axiom, will for several years be the best-selling SUV in China, and will be the basis for the launch of the Haval brand. And to support its launch, the third phase of the Baoding plant is inaugurated, with a capacity of 200,000 units.

Also in 2005, GreatWall confirmed its interest in exporting its models. And becomes with the establishment of a CKD production in Russia the first Chinese manufacturer to produce in a foreign country.

2007 marks a turning point. With a new logo, but above all the official authorization to produce sedans. And the first model is not long. It’s the Peri (or GWPeri), which looks furiously like a Fiat Panda, with some Nissan Note styling details. Fiat will file a lawsuit, without success, but will eventually obtain the ban on the sale of the Peri in Europe.

Some big brands

  • 1984: founding of GreatWall
  • 1990: takeover by Wei Jianjun
  • 1993: first GreatWall car
  • 1996: launch of the Deer pickup
  • 1997: first exports
  • 2001: first “homemade” engines
  • 2002 : premier SUV
  • 2003: listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange
  • 2005: start of production in Russia
  • 2005 : GreatWall Hover
  • 2005: first sedan since 1993, the GreatWall Peri
  • 2010: presence at the Dakar
  • 2011: SUV H6
  • 2013: launch of the Haval brand
  • 2017: launch of the Wey brand


Long unique brand, GreatWall therefore first produced pick-ups, then SUVs, and after 2008 sedans or an ephemeral minivan. The launch of the first sedans being promising, Greatwall then deploys a wide range of city cars, compacts and multiple projects will be presented, often very “inspired” by existing models, mainly from Toyota. Not all of them will see the light of day, like the large C70 for example. But since the launch of Haval, the brand has been abandoned and only produces the C30 sedan and pick-ups.

  • C30: compact sedan with 4 doors
  • Wingle 5 and Wingle 6: range of pick-ups

Faced with the success of the Hover, GreatWall decides to focus on SUVs. And even launch a new brand. In 2013 Hover therefore becomes Haval, phonetically close, but less sensitive to the rights to the name (with Hoover in particular). In 2015, the brand began to offer its models in Red (more dynamic) and Blue (more elegant) versions.

  • H1: small urban SUV, with two vehicles under the same name… 3m90 in H1 Blue, and 4m in H1 Red
  • H2S: intermediate between H1 and H2, 4m14
  • H2: compact SUV, 4m33, available in Red and Blue
  • H5: the original Hover still valiant
  • H6: the best-selling SUV in China… just renewed in its H6 Blue and H6 Red versions. The old model remains available under the name H6 Classic
  • H6 Coupé: version of the H6 with a slower rear and Evoque-style floating roof. In Red and Blue too
  • H7 / H7L: Large D-segment SUV (4m70) in Red or Blue. The 4m90 7-seater H7L is only available in Blue for the moment
  • H8: high-end SUV (4m80) largely inspired by the Volkswagen Touareg (Red only)
  • H9: large SUV more off-road oriented, inspired by the Toyota Land Cruiser (Red only)

At the end of 2016, GreatWall announces its new brand at the Guangzhou fair Wey, marketed in April 2017. A brand that is positioned more upscale than Haval. The name is a tribute to Wei Jianjun, and the logo or vertical light signature evokes one of the landmarks in Baoding City.

  • VV5: compact SUV, segment C (4m46), coming to market
  • VV7: D-segment SUV (4m75), available in VV7c and VV7s, according to a strategy similar to Haval’s Red / Blue.

Joint ventures

Courted by several manufacturers for partnerships, GreatWall has to date not signed any joint venture agreement for production in China.

Illustrations credit: GreatWall

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