A proper introduction to Changan Auto for the Philippines

Arriving in China is often a different experience even for a seasoned traveler.

Even after planning for factors like the weather, the currency, and the need for -um- alternative means of online connectivity and communication, it can still be difficult. Even if you can speak some form of Chinese (in my case, Fookien), you still may have some difficulty since the official language is Mandarin.

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Chongqing, however, is on a different level. While we’re all used to places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, Chongqing is something else entirely. This is a place very few of us have been to. And judging by the one badge on a vast majority of cars around, it is clearly the hometown of one of the biggest.

Changan.

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Virtually all Chinese car brands have the same problem –perception.

The public’s perception was brought about by early attempts to enter the market when they weren’t ready. Some weren’t ready to handle the challenging auto business. Some had designs that belonged to others. Most, however, weren’t up to speed when it comes to quality and safety.

Now things have changed. They’ve stepped up on every facet of the auto business be it design, engineering, technology, safety, quality, and even operations. That’s why all Chinese automakers want to work and change the way we think about their brands and vehicles.

And if 2023 was any indication, change was constant. The Philippine auto industry saw plenty of moving and shaking with brand heads, executives, and even brands themselves changing hands as well. That was the case with Changan Auto.

Headquartered in Chongqing which was formerly a part of landlocked Sichuan province, Changan isn’t as well known yet outside of China compared to its other counterparts. But that will also change.

In the Philippines, Changan has already had a footprint for about a decade, but that too has been changing and not necessarily in the best of ways. It continuously swapped distributors due to differing strategies and circumstances, but now it seems to have reached stable ground with Inchcape Philippines.

That’s why we took a flight here. They want to immerse us in the brand, history, vehicles, technology, manufacturing, and philosophy. And boy, there’s a lot to unpack.

Changan has significant technology on its hands with its own research and development centers in China (Beijing, Chongqing, Hebei, Hefei, and Shanghai) and across the globe (Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The company also has over two decades of working with global auto manufacturers Ford and Mazda. They had prior joint ventures with Suzuki that lasted for 25 years and another with PSA Peugeot Citroen for 10 years.

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We visited their global R&D headquarters in Chongqing, China where we were shown some of their latest cars and got a brief experience with them as well.

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Manufacturing prowess

Changan itself has over 35 years of experience in building and selling passenger vehicles and they have established itself as one of the top 4 automotive companies in China exporting vehicles globally. We were given a tour of the LiangJiang smart factory that boasts around 80% automation. A brand-new car can be rolled out from stamping, welding, painting, assembly, and final inspection in 18 hours according to the company.

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The cars

During our visit, we were shown some of their locally offered models such as the CS55 Plus, Uni-T, and Uni-K. The Changan Hunter pickup and Uni-V performance compact were interesting models shown, but they are still discussing whether those two models would be offered in our market. We were also shown some of their new energy vehicles such as the A05 and A07 from the entry-level Qiyuan/Nevo line, the S7 under the Deepal brand, and the Avtr 11.

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Validation and testament to quality

The company says their new model releases would have undergone around 4 million kilometers in test mileage as it undergoes 4,500 tests in 15 areas including environment, strength, and safety. One particular test they shared was the opening and closing of doors which is tested to about 1 million times.

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Changan is in charge of the vast 1,360-hectare Chongqing Xibu Automobile Proving Ground (CXAPG) where they can simulate virtually any road condition that cars need to be tested on. We were given a shotgun ride around the high-speed loop where we saw vehicles from other brands being evaluated as well. Changan says they test about 200 vehicles per model through 68 different conditions at CXAPG.

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AVTR Technology

To show off the group's latest offering, we were given a brief experience of AVTR, their new joint venture with battery manufacturer CATL. While tech giant Huawei has been mentioned multiple times, its involvement is mainly as a technology provider. We had a brief experience with the recently launched Avatr 11 and Avtr 12; and also visited the Avtr showroom to get a feel of the brand's modern retail approach.

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This is all part of Changan Auto’s Vast Ocean Plan which aims to accelerate its presence in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Their approach of “one policy for one region and one policy for one country”, is viewed as a more consistent and sensible approach. Changan also plans to launch no less than 25 new products by 2025. It also aims to establish a total of 3,000 outlets overseas and by 2030 invest over $10 billion overseas, sell more than 1.2 million cars, employ over 10,000 people for its overseas business unit, and establish itself as one of the top brands globally.

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For the better part, Changan seems to have the right partner and the right strategy with the support of an existing dealer network to work within the Philippines along with a relatively attractive model lineup. We do hope they have a long-lasting relationship this time around.

After all, the name Changan literally means lasting safety.