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China's Great Wall Motor plans to launch a new standalone brand for electric and smart vehicles, sources familiar with the plan said, as automakers in world's biggest car market pursue growth in the new segment.
Inspired by the market success of electric vehicle leader Tesla Inc, as well as Chinese startups Nio Inc, Li Auto and Xpeng Inc, several Chinese automakers this year announced plans for new electric brands, mostly to offer more expensive products than their mass-market lines.
Conventional Chinese automakers such as SAIC Motor , Changan Automobile and GAC are seeking to move their products up the value chain as China's economic planners push new technologies.
Baoding-based Great Wall will launch a new standalone brand, internally coded as "SL project", for electric and smart vehicles, which will be priced higher than existing products, two people, who declined to be named, said.
The new brand, the name of which sources declined to reveal, will include sport utility vehicles (SUV) and sedans, which will be battery electric vehicles or extended range electric vehicles that allow drivers to charge their cars with electricity or gasoline.
Asked about the plan, a Great Wall spokesman said "the big tide has come, we will join the game," without elaborating.
Great Wall currently has the affordable electric Ora brand and is building an EV factory with BMW in China.
To compete with rival Geely, Great Wall has added the P-series pickup truck and off-road SUV models to its range. In the first 11 months, it sold almost a million vehicles.
The new brand is Great Wall's second attempt to crack the premium segment. In 2016, it launched its WEY brand for more upscale models, although it has struggled to generate sales growth.