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Opinion: The £ 25,000 Ora Cat EV shows China is serious about world domination


The Ora Cat EV is a dangerous car. Not as dangerous as Chinese cars 15 years ago when crumpled like paper bags in crash tests, but a real danger to the established auto industry which hopes to maintain its market share.

A cheeky, vaguely retro-looking five-door sedan with up to 261 miles of electric range that costs significantly less than a VW ID.3, it has all the makings of a huge puzzle for European automakers. like VW and Renault.

The cat, branded Great Wall’s Ora, was unveiled in European form at the Munich motor show in September and will go on sale in the UK in December from £ 25,000 ($ 33,740) before UK government discount of £ 2,500 ($ 3,374) is applied, meaning it reduces the cheapest ID.3 by almost £ 6,000 ($ 8,000) and over 5,000 £ ($ 6,750), much smaller, the Renault Zoë.

For £ 25,000 you’ll get a 58 kWh battery with a range of 209 miles (336 km) in the WLTP cycle, compared to 124 miles (200 km) for a Mazda MX-30, although the Zoë will do 245 miles (394 miles) km). Keep an extra £ 3,000 on the budget though, and you get a bigger 63kWh battery that boosts range to 261 miles (420km) and still crucifies Renault’s price tag.

Related: Great Wall’s ORA Lightning Cat Is An Electric Sedan That Shamelessly Looks Like Porsche

A single engine mounted in the nose of the Cat Ora sends 169 hp and 184 lb-ft to the front wheels to deliver a respectable 8.5 seconds from zero to 62 mph (100 km / h), while the generous list Standard kits include LED lights, 18-inch alloys (the VW miser gets steels), and a pair of 10.25-inch touchscreens. Buyers who want a sportier look can opt for the GT trim, which gets different wheels and bumpers, although the material under the hood doesn’t change.

Good is probably good enough

No one outside of China has driven the Ora Cat yet, so we have no idea how it dynamically compares to cars like the ID.3 on European or American roads. But a YouTuber who took him to China says he’s only good at driving and managing issues. That’s probably all it takes. For many buyers, price, connectivity, and equipment will be enough to tip the deal. If we were Volkswagen, which is hugely successful with the ID.3, but also had to take a step back and watch Tesla take the top spot in European sales with the Model 3, we would be concerned.

And not just because the Ora Cat looks like a tempting package, but because it’s just a harbinger of what’s to come, and soon. We had known the Chinese had been coming for some time. But as with electrification, the shift from “come” to “here and ready to kick ass” seems to have changed quickly. Be careful, the two are not unrelated. Chinese automakers are pushing electric vehicle technology heavily and, as they move to Europe and beyond, are able to capitalize on the public’s willingness to embrace new, unknown brands. Who, after all, had heard of Tesla 15 years ago?

Shades of ’49 Beetle and ’72 Civic, and we don’t mean the styling

Many people can already drive a Chinese car without even knowing it. MG, Polestar and Tesla all build cars in China which are then exported around the world, while Lynk & Co was recently launched in Europe and is coming to the UK in 2022, with a promised North American expansion.

Yeah, don’t think America is immune. Chinese auto brands have had their eyes on the North American price for some time. Polestar, of course, is already here, and MG’s recent expansion into Mexico could be a stepping stone to the US market. While many of the promised Chinese car launches in the United States over the past decade by Chery and Zotye have not materialized, you would be unwise to bet against Chinese brands making inroads in the future.

We’ve been here more than once, and automakers should know that the threat should not be ignored. In the 1950s, American automakers had to scramble to respond to the influx of fuel-efficient European imports like the VW Beetle. And in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japanese brands did the same, both in America and Europe, attracting buyers with more equipment and solid engineering, just like two Korean brands. decades later.

Develop identities

One area in which the Chinese seemed to perform better than the Koreans at the time is style. Hyundai and Kia have struggled for years to build cars with visual personality, and arguably only recently achieved this goal. But while the Ora Cat clearly takes a hat off to a car like the Porsche 911, it is at least distinctive and memorable, and the rear styling, which exceptionally lacks traditional light groups, with the lights integrated into the black stripe under the rear window, helps it stand out from the crowd.

Related: Honda Introduces Five New Electric Vehicles For China, First Two Arriving Next Year

It’s certainly more imaginative than some of the truly shameless Chinese copies of the past, like the Landwind X7, which was a ringer for the Range Rover Evoque, or the Chery QQ, which was such a close copy of the Daewoo Matiz that key components, including the doors, were interchangeable between the two cars. And despite those front lights, it’s unlikely to lift Volkswagen’s thorns like its overtly retro Beetle clone sister, the Ora Punk Cat, did.

Watch, learn and improve

And it is not only the styling of Chinese cars that has improved, but also the quality of the components underneath. For years, foreign brands wishing to do business in China have been forced to form joint ventures with local companies. And now, these same Chinese companies are using the lessons learned in these projects and using the explosion of electric vehicles as a way to accelerate their entry into the markets dominated by the automakers who trained them. According to this NY Times article, cars are proving to be as popular with dealers as they are with customers. The newspaper claims that the better handling by Chinese brands of the chip crisis means that their customers’ wait times may be shorter, and a German MG dealer said he liked the fact that he was he didn’t have to buy the cars in advance, but instead got a commission on each sale.

There are still a few hurdles to overcome, including the persistent public perception that products made in China are inferior (although each of us leads our lives via a mostly reliable Chinese-made smartphone), and the Lack of a dealer network, although Tesla’s business model and the minimum requirement of an EV for maintenance helps there. But the Ora Cat looks like a solid product, like a lot of other Chinese cars we’ve seen from Wey and Nio recently.

In the 1960s, the British motorcycle industry was hugely successful and rejected the idea of ​​Japanese brands like Honda, then known for their simple scooters, making full-fledged sports motorcycles a joke. But within a decade, the British bicycle industry had been wiped out. Don’t bet that a significant proportion of the cars that make up your average emissions-free traffic jam ten years from now will be wearing a badge that isn’t even available in your country today.

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