Great Wall Motors uses former Holden factory to build milestone electric car

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What is claimed to be the first electric vehicle mass-produced by a Chinese car maker outside of its home market has rolled out of a former Holden factory.

Chinese car giant Great Wall Motors (GWM) has begun building electric cars at the former Holden Colorado ute factory in Thailand.

The first GWM Ora Good Cat – an electric hatchback sold as the GWM Ora in Australia – rolled off the Rayong, Thailand production line last week, which GWM claims makes it the first Chinese car maker to mass-manufacture electric vehicles outside of China.

GWM is yet to confirm if the Australian-market Ora – which became Australia’s cheapest electric vehicle with early 2024 discounts applied – will switch from its current China sourcing to Thailand.

The factory in Rayong was opened by Holden’s parent company General Motors (GM) in 2003 with the Holden Colorado ute built there between 2008 and 2020.

The Holden Trailblazer (or Colorado 7) SUV, sold in Australia from 2012 to 2020, was also produced at the plant alongside several Chevrolet-badged vehicles for South-East Asian countries.

When it made the decision to exit right-hand-drive markets – and shut down Holden – GM sold the Rayong facility to GWM, including a vehicle assembly line, and an engine and transmission plant. The Chinese car maker commenced production of H6 Hybrid SUVs there in 2021.

The Chinese company has upgraded the line to build electric cars and says it has the capacity to build 120,000 vehicles annually.

The Thai GWM factory is located close to the car giant’s battery supplier S-Volt, which completed a new factory at the end of 2023 north-west of Rayong in the town of Si Racha.

The S-Volt plant runs two production lines, one focused on producing modules for hybrid vehicles, and a separate line for battery packs destined for plug-in hybrid and fully-electric vehicles.

The coastal Rayong province includes many car factories and component manufacturers with a ready-made parts supply chain for car makers in the area.

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The current Ford Ranger is produced for Australian showrooms in the area, with most other top-selling utes – including the Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50, Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara – built in Thailand.

GWM will not be the only Chinese company building cars in Thailand for long.

In November 2023, Changan broke ground on a new factory in Rayong it plans to open in 2025, to produce a hybrid four-wheel-drive which is in line for Australia.

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