Tesla’s biggest rival in China: an in-depth look at the $4,200 Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

An assembly line worker at the Wuling plant. He is putting the finishing touches on the HongGuang Mini EV here. (Credit: YouTube | Gweilo 60)

Tesla’s biggest rival in China is the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV that starts at around $4,200. Information regarding this small but impressive electric car that is a part of an SAIC, General Motors, and Wuling joint venture is vague and usually hard to come by. However, a recent video revealed several new details about the one car that has managed to outsell Tesla for the past five months.

The HongGuang Mini EV: A Quick Introduction

First delivered in July 2020, the Wuling HongGuan Mini EV is manufactured in Lizhou, Guangxi, China, and is available in two variants: one equips a 9.2 kWh battery and the other a 13.8 kWh battery. Capable of a 62 MPH top speed and only around 75 and 110 miles of range per charge, the vehicle’s base model is available for a respectable $4,200. However, a top price of around $5,600 will give you a fully-loaded version of the car complete with air conditioning and power windows, two features that are available in most cars as a standard option. This car, however, is far from standard and is an economical EV made for short trips, tight finances, and efficiency. It’s no Tesla, but it did secure over 119,250 total sales in 2020 alone, making it the second best-selling EV in the Chinese market, trailing the Tesla Model 3.

2021 has proven to be a different story, at least so far. The HongGuang Mini EV has commanded the Chinese electric vehicle sector in 2021, selling just shy of 57,000 units through February and holding a commanding lead over the second-place Model 3, which has accumulated 27,531 total sales so far this year. The affordability of the HongGuang Mini EV is proving to be a disruptor. Although it doesn’t pack the punch or performance of the Model 3, people continue to purchase the car because of its impressive price tag.

Production of the HongGuang Mini EV

As previously mentioned, the Mini EV is produced in Lizhou, Guangxi, at a small but extremely efficient facility. A new car rolls off the line every minute, and the vehicle only takes 4 hours to produce from start to finish, according to YouTuber Gwelio 60who recently toured the factory to have an inside look at the car.

An assembly line worker at the Wuling plant. He is putting the finishing touches on the HongGuang Mini EV here. (Credit: YouTube | Gweilo 60)

There are not many parts to the car, and it is a relatively simple machine. The battery and some other basic parts that make up a car are really the only things that go under the body and chassis itself. Anything that could be considered a “luxury” is not included in the vehicle’s most basic models. It is really a car to get from point A to point B with as few issues or bells and whistles as possible.

(Credit: YouTube | Gweilo 60)

The vehicle itself is an employee at the plant. In fact, several of them are. Wuling has several HongGuang Mini EVs that haul materials, parts, and other things across the campus of the production facility completely autonomously. The cars operate under their own guidance and can sense when to stop and when to accelerate back onto their path. Gweilo 60 showed an example of how safe they are in the video by crossing the street while a HongGuang Mini EV approached. The car successfully stopped, waited for Gweilo to cross the street, and began navigating once again.

The Interior: Simple, small, and smooth

The bells and whistles are not present in this vehicle. A small dash screen and a simple radio, along with HVAC ventilation, make up the entirety of the dashboard. It is comfortable, small, sleek, and smooth, and it is just enough to keep someone comfortable during their short drive. It isn’t much, but with the low range, it’s not like someone needs excessive entertainment or features. You get what you pay for.

(Credit: YouTube | Gweilo 60)

The ride is smooth, zippy, and comfortable, according to the short review from Gweilo. It won’t go over 62 MPH, but it’s another gas car off the road, something that is always a positive. It has good suspension, it handles well, and it is a comfortable ride for any occupants, he says.

The Bottom Line: Is the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV a real “threat” to Tesla?

No, it probably isn’t a threat to Tesla because Tesla’s cars and the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV simply are not in the same realm. Comparing the car to the Model 3 is like comparing the Model 3 to the Rivian R1T: prices, purpose, and functionality are all different, and they are two cars that shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence. Many Tesla enthusiasts have called the Mini EV a “golf cart” because of its size and price point, and really that isn’t far off. However, the Mini EV is undoubtedly a popular vehicle, and the sales figures show that. Is it a legitimate threat to Tesla? Probably not. At least, it doesn’t seem that way. They’re just not comparable.

Tesla Model 3, Model Y capture silver, bronze medals in China in February

That isn’t to say that what Wuling has accomplished with this small but mighty EV isn’t impressive. The sales figures alone are incredible, and it is certainly a great indication that China is ready to buy EVs. However, it would be interesting to see if the Wuling-GM-SAIC partnership would be willing or would plan for a more competitive, luxurious, and expensive EV that would drive competition to the max in the Chinese market. China is becoming a hotbed for EVs, and the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV is driving EV sales through the roof.

Watch Gweilo 60’s full video regarding the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV below.

Joey Klender: Transportation Writer | Penn State Alum | Future World Series of Poker Bracelet Holder 🚀 🛰 ☀️ 🚘 🧠 🕳
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