Pickup trucks are set to replace sports utility vehicles as the main growth driver in China's automobile market, according to the country's largest producer of SUVs.
Li Ruifeng, vice-president of Great Wall Motor, made the remark at a news conference held to announce the company's new pickup strategy in Baoding, North China's Hebei province, on Sept 28.
His words were echoed by Ning Shuyong, a fellow vice-president and general manager of Great Wall Motor's pickup division.
"Great Wall is poised to improve its annual sales volume for pickups from about 120,000 units to 200,000 units by 2020 and forge itself into China's first pickup brand as well as one of the world's top three," Ning said.
To achieve these goals, the automaker has made medium- and long-term development plans in terms of manufacturing, product portfolio, marketing channels, service and overseas market development.
To amplify its production capacity, Great Wall Motor is building a new plant in Chongqing that is scheduled to go into operation by the end of 2019, according to Ning.
The plant will feature intelligent design and be environmentally friendly, making use of both green materials and energy, Ning said. Green processes will also be adopted and the plant is expected to achieve an automation rate of more than 70 percent.
Once the new plant is operational, the company's pickup division is expected to have an annual capacity of 400,000 units, according to the automaker.
To build its product portfolio, Great Wall Motor plans to launch a diverse range of models in the next three years, meeting different usage requirements such as electrification, off-road motoring, connectivity, touring and modifying.
The company unveiled its new Wingle 7 at the news conference as part of its efforts to meet these commitments. The new model will go on sale by the end of this year.
"Targeting the middle-and high-end pickup market and meeting upgraded and multipurpose usage requirements, the Great Wall Wingle 7 has improved its appearance, intelligent connectivity, security and quality," said Zhang Jiaming, a director of Great Wall Motor's technology center.
In terms of design, the Wingle 7 draws on Great Wall Motor's own WEY, with its stylish appearance, floating display, full-range audio and leather seats.
With advanced connectivity, the Wingle 7 features voice control and multiple online services including music, news and weather reports.
To enhance security, it is equipped with six air-bag restraint systems and an electronic stability program.
Key components and parts have also been sourced from world-renowned suppliers such as Bosch and Autoliv.
According to the automaker, the new model's design and quality are in accordance with EU regulatory requirements, paving the way for the Wingle 7 to be sold in more than 100 countries and regions in future.
For 20 years from 1998 to 2018, Great Wall Motor has ranked first among China's automakers in terms of sales volume of pickup trucks, with a 33 percent market share, according to the automaker.
Li said he was optimistic about the future for pickup trucks in China because of recent consumption upgrades and the country's lifting of restrictions on the vehicles.
In developed markets, such as the United States and Australia, pickup trucks account for more than 15 percent of total sales, according to Li, while in China they represent just 1.3 percent.
This gap in sales represents a huge opportunity for the company, he added.