Wei Brand CEO Li Ruifeng: We must be a high-end new energy brand.

Jiang Xiaohua

After achieving impressive sales data of 1.28 million vehicles in 2021, Great Wall Motors, which boasts a variety of brands, is even more enthusiastic about its expectations for 2022. The company has set an annual sales target of 1.9 million vehicles.

This approach is in line with the strong and resolute style of Wei Jianjun, the chairman of Great Wall Motors. In the midst of the most severe phase of the pandemic in 2020, Wei Jianjun raised the morale of the entire group through a vital contemplation, and he would never allow anyone to give up easily.

However, it is said that in Baoding and Beijing, Wei Jianjun would speak with half a hint of concern when he met members of the Wei team named after his surname, “I think, among you guys, you are the most difficult to deal with.”

As the first truly high-end brand launched by a Chinese mainstream independent automaker, it is difficult to make a definitive assessment of the success and failures of the Wei brand since its launch.

On the one hand, it successfully became the first Chinese high-end auto brand to achieve large-scale production and sales, opening up Great Wall Motors’ upward path. In this sense, without the solid preparation of the Wei brand in the six years leading up to the successful launch of the Tank brand and the high-end pure electric brand Salon, which will start deliveries in the middle of this year, it would have been difficult for Great Wall Motors to become a leader in such a short period of time.

In fact, the diversity of Great Wall Motors today is planted and nurtured during the single-handed breakthrough of the Wei brand during the past six years, whether it is the product concept, corporate strategy, or internal transformation, the Wei brand has made significant contributions to Great Wall Motors.

On the other hand, the Wei brand’s market price did not increase by a sufficient amount, leaving little upward space for the Haval brand, which is the foundation of Great Wall Motors. At the same time, under the difficult situation of terminal selling price stabilization, the distinctive features of the Wei brand could not be continuously transmitted, instead leading to high sales volume and low sales for individual models.

At the Guangzhou Auto Show at the end of 2021, the Wei brand tossed out a heavyweight bomb. Starting in 2022, the Wei brand will be completely refreshed and will enter the high-end new energy field through the full series of standard DHT high-performance hybrid technology, thus completing the brand’s reconstruction. The most intuitive and prominent aspect is that the future product price of the Wei brand will double compared to the current average price of around ten thousand yuan.

Therefore, at the end of last year, when everyone was singing praises for the various brand business units of Great Wall Motors, including dealers and media, they gave puzzled expressions for the Mocha priced at 300,000 yuan. It should be noted that to double the price of a brand that has been in existence for five years is even more difficult than when Yilin Guo took off his skis and put on ice-skates, and then came back with a block of ice dumplings.Even if Great Wall Motors wants to establish a high-end new energy brand based on superior hybrid technology, given Great Wall’s brand building capabilities in recent years, it seems more efficient and reasonable to start a new brand from scratch. Why take the long and difficult road?

During the event for the launch of the Mocha DHT-PHEV in Sanya a few days ago, I raised these questions to Wei Pai’s CEO, Li Ruifeng.

Li Ruifeng’s response was: no surprise, no compromise, no rest.

It is not surprising that Wei Pai is positioned as a high-end, leading, and industry new era Chinese brand from the outset of its design. If for various reasons, the brand’s development did not follow the predetermined path during its initial stages, then with the new generation of advanced technology, Wei Pai’s choice is to return to its original intention.

Li Ruifeng believes that Wei Pai must not only be a highly sophisticated high-end brand, but also a new type of automotive brand that conforms to the industry’s transformation and represents the new extension of the industry driven by new technology.

This is Wei Pai’s true racetrack.

Therefore, this brand refresh is a correction for this new brand after the first stage of development. As far as Great Wall Motors is concerned, there is no need for a Haval that is several thousand yuan more expensive. With the support of subsequent technology capabilities, Haval itself can achieve upward breakthroughs. From the very beginning, Great Wall needed a unique Wei Pai.

One cannot give up the pursuit of becoming what they want to be just because everyone is already familiar with who they are. If that’s the case, what is the meaning of the lost original intention? Therefore, within Wei Pai, this adjustment was not surprising and everyone was excited.

Of course, this is certainly not an easy task. A brand that has been around for six years, with a mature distribution channel and fixed product impressions, a major brand refresh, not only faces huge adjustment pressures internally and from cooperative partners, but also has a greater difficulty in achieving internal and external ideological unification.

However, from Great Wall’s perspective or from the perspective of personal development for Wei Pai employees, these strongly inhibitory forces due to inertia are also the reasons why Wei Pai must be refreshed.# Li Ruifeng said that he has never been as anxious as he is now, but he has also never been as clear-minded as he is now. Li Ruifeng often gives his team an example, saying that some new car companies are recruiting employees, especially marketing staff, and actually putting up signs that traditional car company people are not welcome.

What does this mean? It means that in the new automotive industry, the value of traditional automotive people is being partially or even largely reduced to zero. This means that the experience and resources of automotive people, including himself, are not only greatly reduced in value, but may also have adverse effects on new brand projects.

The biggest challenge of Wei Pai’s reform is not to change an existing system, but to make all Wei Pai people face the future and new competitors and change themselves.

Just from the perspective of products, the Mocha equipped with DHT technology has advantages in the market area of around 300,000, whether facing old rivals or new forces. However, this is obviously not enough. Wei Pai must become a new type of automotive brand in the entire system, a technology enterprise that relies on information technology and big data collection and analysis technology, and connects research and development, manufacturing, application, and service closed loops. 300,000 is the pricing of the user experience, which the technology enterprise has built with the entire system.

Li Ruifeng said that if every Wei Pai employee can clearly understand these, then difficult tasks can certainly be accomplished. In this brand refresh, Wei Pai draws on the experience of the previous development stage and strives to not compromise.

Wei Pai CMO Qiao Xinyu introduced that after the Mocha rebranding is launched, Wei Pai will immediately start in-depth communication with its distribution partners, not only to persuade distribution partners to accept a brand-new Wei Pai on a new track, but also to let everyone know that it is not just Wei Pai and Great Wall’s cars that need to upgrade and refresh themselves according to the new era requirements of the industry, but also to carefully consider how brands like Wei Xiaoli, which represent the new era of automotive sales and service, do it. The needs of Great Wall are also the needs of every link in the industrial chain.

For dealers, it is not enough to say that you used to sell cars worth tens of thousands of yuan. Now you have to integrate into the new era of users from the source of thinking. In simple terms, distribution partners need to work with us to continuously allow users to experience the value of Wei Pai’s products and services, and continuously create new value around user needs.

Li Ruifeng admitted that although Wei Pai’s “washing and rejuvenation” level of track switching surgery is correct, the window of opportunity it faces is not long. If Wei Pai cannot unify its thinking from top to bottom and move forward rapidly, its chances of success will be small.Therefore, Wei brand has deeply linked its entire wealth with its own development, from rank, position to stocks and salary rewards, and Wei employees share both the honors and disgraces of the brand. People who know about Great Wall Motor Company know that this is not just a casual talk.

All in, no reservation, no dead ends. Li Ruifeng said that this is not just a determination and grand talk. It is a consensus that Wei brand has reached. We are doing something difficult but right. Perseverance is needed for the difficulty, and persistence is needed for the right.

Wei Jianjun clearly expresses his concerns about Wei brand not just because he thinks the brand is difficult. Obviously, he has had clear expectations and confidence in Wei brand all along. Based on my research on Chairman Wei, even if the sales volume of Wei brand doubles or triples according to the previous practice, he still won’t be satisfied. Even if he has to express satisfaction verbally, he will not be satisfied in his heart.

The new positioning of Wei brand is more in line with the expected temperament of Great Wall towards this brand. Therefore, in 2022, due to various factors, the unclear chip supply situation, Great Wall has made it clear that scarce resources such as chips must first meet the weight-upward Wei brand.

At this point in early 2022, we may not be able to judge what this refreshing of Wei brand means or how it will succeed or fail. Like Li Ruifeng said, the high-end of a brand cannot be achieved by just producing one or two expensive cars. The initial success must also be based on the market and users’ intuitive understanding, recognition, and love for our zero-anxiety smart electric and long-range DHT.

However, based on Wei Jianjun’s layout and communication with Wei brand leaders such as Li Ruifeng, I think there are at least three judgments that can be made:

First, Wei brand must be a brand that represents the new era of the industry and the reform and revitalization direction of Great Wall Motor Company. In this sense, even if Wei brand’s major redesign encounters difficulties, it is still better than sticking to the old style of Haval’s three-inch punches.

Second, after switching to a different track, the products presented by Wei brand in the 300,000 RMB range are competitive, and the differentiation in design can meet market expectations. Referring to the ability of Great Wall’s system to rapidly update products and connect user needs over the past two years, product strength and sustainability can support Wei brand’s aspirations.

Third, Great Wall’s attitude towards Wei brand is clear, and Wei brand’s current spiritual outlook and institutional mechanism can support a start-up-style innovation.

If these three judgments can be maintained, I believe that Wei brand has the opportunity to write a classic success case of brand innovation.

At the end of this article, I have one small suggestion for Li Ruifeng, the helmsman of Wei Pai. In the process of transformation of traditional car companies, the main reason why most of them cannot persist is not that they aim too low, but that they aim too high; It’s not that they don’t put enough effort, but they put too much; It’s not that they don’t learn enough, but they learn too much and ignore their inherent advantages, such as 3D printing.

This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email bd@42how.com.