Since last July, a little-known automaker in China’s southwest has dominated the world’s largest electric car market. The Hongguang Mini is outselling bigger players including Tesla almost every month. Its tiny EV starts at $4,500.

   

In China, a little-known EV maker is leaving Tesla in the dust

WHAT?

Since last July, a little-known automaker in China’s southwest has dominated the world’s largest electric car market. The Hongguang Mini is outselling bigger players including Tesla Inc. almost every month. Its tiny EV starts at $4,500.

WHO?

The Hongguang Mini is the brainchild of SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., a joint venture between SAIC Motor Corp. and Guangxi Automobile Group Co., two state-backed automakers, and U.S. giant General Motors Co.

HOW?

Based in the city of Liuzhou, known for its limestone mountains and river-snail soup, the company — which has sold some 270,000 of the cars within nine months, making it the best-selling EV in China — has even bigger ambitions for the future. It’s aiming for annual sales of 1.2 million vehicles next year, almost equal to the number of EVs churned out by China’s carmakers in 2020 combined.

WHEN?

Set up in 2002, the Chinese-American JV built its business selling microvans: dependable sliding-door workhorses that earned the nickname ‘the bread box car’ in Mandarin, and were China’s top-selling passenger vehicle in 2017. Millions of them ply the country’s roads, used by contractors and delivery drivers alike.