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Guangzhou-based automaker GAC flexes global muscles in dual model launch

Guangzhou-based automaker GAC flexes global muscles in dual model launch

Tessa R. Salazar

If you ask me about a certain China-based company called Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd, or GAC for short, I will be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about the brand. Even after scouring my library of car-related books authored by industry experts and historians from virtually all corners of the globe (except, of course, China), I wouldn’t read a peep about this carmaker.

Why has this brand stayed under the international radar of respected and renowned auto scribes? I can only theorize that all activities by GAC all these years had been conducted within its protective nation’s physical and sociopolitical borders, and that until 2009, the year the world realized that China had overtaken the United States as the world’s leading car manufacturing nation, GAC and the rest of the Chinese auto superpowers were like “caged dragons” waiting to be unleashed upon the world.

And so, here we are, 15 years after China became the world’s number one, the Philippine mobility landscape is now peppered with brands and technologies straight from the mainland. It’s no surprise, then, that GAC had been one of those brands that had come in a few years ago to add spice to the local competition.

Apparently, GAC wants more than just giving Pinoys a taste of its own brand of motoring. Its recent corporate move to collaborate with Astara, one of the world’s biggest automotive distributors, has made it loud and clear that the automaker wants a much bigger slice of the pie.

This was the overwhelming vibe I got during the Jan. 18 back-to-back launch of its sporty sedan Empow and the all-new full-size 7-seater SUV GS8 at The Fifth in Rockwell Powerplant Mall in Makati City, marking the brand’s first public event under new distributor Astara Philippines. The new cars were formally unveiled by Astara managing director for Southern Europe and the Philippines Jorge Belzunce, Astara Philippines managing director Raoul Picello, and GAC Motor Philippines brand head Jun Cajayon.

I was able to corner GAC Motor Philippines’ brand head Jun Cajayon over late lunch immediately after the launch ceremonies to get the automaker’s insights on the industry, and on the local motoring market, as well.

Obviously, the man did his homework on GAC, as he said, “GAC is a proud brand. They have always hyped on Chinese craftsmanship and Chinese-inspired elements. They’re proud that their products are 100-percent designed, developed, and made in China. Of course, the suppliers are global. For example, the transmissions that it uses are by Aisin (from Japan), some components are by Bosch (Germany).”

Cajayon, a veteran auto executive who has been involved in multiple car brands since the early 1990s, shared that when he did his own research on GAC, he was surprised at the level of craftsmanship the automaker had achieved. “I read, I watched reviews on YouTube, local and national media, and I was impressed that hardly anyone would say something negative about the GAC model they were reviewing, whether it was the GA4, the GS 3, or the GS 4.”

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He stressed, “GAC really invests in research and development. That’s one of their core trends. That’s why they make good products that are backed by solid research and development.”

No compromises

Cajayon said he joined the GAC Motor Philippines team because he believes in both the quality of its products, as well as its market potentials in the country. “With this brand, there is no compromise. The cars feel good and look good. They do feel more expensive than their price points. So, that’s value. I have test driven these two new vehicles. They’re underrated, and show a lot of potential. Now, Astara Philippines has that capacity to grow the brand. It has the resources, the clout, to be able to convince partners to join us in representing GAC across the country. With Astara Philippines, we’ll be able to bring in more products since we can promise more volume.”

For decades, GAC has been revving its engines in China’s backyard, but neighbors seem to have been ignoring the noise. But since China has opened the proverbial gates and brought down its “great walls”, the global neighborhood can’t help but notice an overwhelming garage filled with untold motoring wonders. And GAC is one of those proud, gleaming rides ready and raring to dash out of the driveway.