The feathers are about to fly in Britain’s all-electric car market after the entry of a new Chinese brand this spring.
The GWM ORA Funky Cat First Edition is being imported from £31,995 by a part of the IM Group, which is already well known through its Subaru and Isuzu distribution and its supply of assured parts for the Mitsubishi marque, which pulled out of direct UK sales three years ago.
The new brand is available on line or through a handful of dealers in Bristol, Braintree, Wolverhampton and Glasgow, but more will be added in coming months as retail contracts are negotiated and the numbers of cars increase.
GWM ORA is an international electric car brand already available in Asia, where drivers like its stand-out styling, reasonable EV range and driver-centric features. They have also passed the toughest crash tests with the highest ratings for safety, doing better than some longer established brands.
GWM ORA is owned by global automotive giant Great Wall Motor (GWM), which is headquartered in Baoding, China. In Britain, sales are controlled by I.M. NEV Motor Distributors (UK) Limited and the business currently has a staff of ten handling all enquiries, marketing and distribution.
For now there is just one front wheel drive model using a 169bhp or 63kw motor and 48 kWh battery and it is good for a claimed 193 miles, but additional models will follow, including an saloon and SUV type with a bigger 63kWh battery and range up to 260 miles approx.. Buyers can upgrade their trim and equipment in steps of £600 or £800.
In terms of size it is closest to the Volkswagen ID.3 and Nissan LEAF in the electric field but as a guide it’s a match for the Ford Puma for comparison.
GMW ORA anticipate selling approximately 5,000 Funky Cat models this year and is looking at an order to delivery time of just a few weeks using stocks they have built up and being replenished each month.
Each car carries a five-years unlimited mileage mechanical warranty together with an eight-years or 100,000 battery cover and AA breakdown assistance while servicing is typically every two years or 18,000 miles and they have finance packages set up to pay monthly.
Communications manager Nick Gozzard is excited to be in at the launch of the new marque and said, “It has gone down very well in Asia where owners love its styling, equipment and real-world range.
“We are starting slowly here after talking to the factory for some time and are confident the Funky Cat will have strong appeal to British buyers who also think it’s distinctive, highly equipped and comes with a good warranty at a sensible price.”
He said the brand will bring a fresh new look to the electric mobility market in Europe and a premium, technology-focused experience to its customers.
With its unique design, GWM ORA looks to combine human-centricity with intelligent technologies. Many have likened the appearance of the Funky Cat to a MINI or VW Beetle.
It contains segment-leading levels of standard specification and the interior is said to have intuitive, easy to use tech that keeps users connected on the go.
Standard fittings include LED headlights, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system, plus a choice of four colour combinations for the exterior paint and interior upholstery.
Inside, the ORA Funky Cat features a pair of 10.25-inch screens – one for driver’s essential display and the other for the infotainment.
In 2020, GWM was among the top 15 most innovative OEMs in the Connected Car Innovation Index of the Centre of Automotive Management (CAM).
The group’s global sales network employs more than 60,000. GWM vehicles are exported to more than 170 countries and regions, with cumulative overseas sales exceeding 900,000 vehicles. It has factories in Russia, India, Thailand and Brazil, as well as assembly sites in Ecuador, Malaysia and Tunisia. That puts it on par with many familiar European and American brands.
Over the next year or so, GMW ORA will be launched in Ireland and the USA as well and supplies will be ramped up in Britain.
The UK management team behind the Chinese brand have a wealth of experience and will be discussing marketing and sales with some major national motor groups as well as regional players to ensure potential owners are not a long way from sales or servicing centres.
As the UK network increases the new brand will be better placed to challenge more established marques which have been struggling and looking to alternative selling methods while coping with rising costs.
Chinese brands are very well advanced down the electric car road and will be tough challengers to the European makers now introducing their pure battery models, which are significantly more expensive.