The Big Read – SAIC (4/6) – Volvo buses, Iveco trucks and an old Seat Ibiza – CarNewsChina

February 20, 2022 by No Comments

With its own-brands and the joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors, SAIC is very successful in the passenger car market. The company is much less known in the professional, heavy duty market. Only when the Shanghai company acquired Hongyan and Nanjing Automobile they became a player in the truck market.

Shanghai Sunwin Bus Co.,Ltd.

In the first part of this series, describing the early history of SAIC, I mentioned a couple of public transport companies and associated workshops. In the early days the automobile was available only to the happy few and regular people travelled by public transport. With private car ownership prohibited in communist China, this situation continued well into the 1980s. There were a number of bus companies in Shanghai and in the 1950s and 1960s bus production was just as prominent as passenger car production.

Like the passenger cars, the several bus companies resided under a government committee, were regularly merged or renamed and most of them eventually became part of SAIC. Also like the passenger cars, several Chinese bus makers established joint ventures with international brands to advance the development of new technology. In 2000 SAIC revamped its entire bus industry into a joint venture with Volvo Trucks. At the same time it introduced the brand name Sunwin.

The tie-up with Volvo benefitted Sunwin in two ways. The brand gained access to modern chassis technology and it opened a route to export. Sunwin is a mid-sized bus maker, but has enjoyed several quite large orders from around the world. For the transition to electric buses, Sunwin could fall back on almost a century of experience, since the city of Shanghai operated several trolley-bus lines for decades. The first line opened in 1914, the last line was replaced by a rail-bound tram in the late 1990s. Sunwin also diversified into long-distance coaches and smaller shuttle and school buses.

In 2016 Volvo exited the joint venture. The Swedes sold all shares back to SAIC, making Sunwin a wholly owned subsidiary again.

SAIC-IVECO Hongyan Commercial Vehicle Co., Ltd.

Trucks were the foundation of the Chinese car industry in the 1950s and remained the  backbone of the industry until the 1990s. Although trucks were made in Shanghai as well, this business never gained the same importance as for example FAW Jiefang or Dongfeng. Shanghai Automobile has always been a smaller player in the heavy duty market, until some acquisitions in the early 2000s.

Trucks aren’t the focus of CarNewsChina, but when describing the large state-owned conglomerates, I can’t ignore them. SAIC now owns two truck making companies, both long-running brands they acquired in the 2000s. The first brand is Hongyan, from a company that started out as the Sichuan Automobile Manufacturing Plant.

Of course this company has a complex history too, so it’s a bit of a winding road before we circle back to SAIC. Sichuan Automobile Manufacturing Plant makes the first trucks with the Hongyan brand name. This factory is established by Sichuan Province in October 1965. Initially, the trucks are based on technology from the French manufacturer Berliet. The two companies have even had an extensive collaboration for some time, training Chinese engineers in France. The main buyer of Hongyan trucks is the Chinese army.

Even much older than Hongyan is Jinan Automobile Works. That company was founded in 1935 by the Kuomintang and made car parts. After the communist takeover of China, it also starts building and developing trucks from 1956 onwards, under …….



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