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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Wuling Sunshine

"In this obscure corner of southern China, General Motors seems to have hit on a hot new formula: $5,000 minivans that get 43 miles to the gallon in city driving. That combination of advantages has captivated Chinese buyers, propelling G.M. into the leading spot in this nascent car market.

Compact and utilitarian, these vehicles, called Wuling Sunshine minivans, hardly fit the big-is-better image of G.M., known in the United States for producing some of the largest gas guzzlers on the market, like Hummers.

The minivans, which G.M. builds in a joint venture with a Chinese partner, have a quarter the horsepower of American minivans, weak acceleration and a top speed of 81 miles an hour. The seats are only a third the thickness of seats in Western models but look plush compared with some Chinese cars.

Their development was led by an American, Philip F. Murtaugh, a native of Ohio and a maverick executive who was willing to zig while the rest of G.M. was zagging."

from today's NYT

Sounds good to me....however, this doesn't...

"A soft-spoken man in a company known for autocratic leaders, Mr. Murtaugh ran the China operations for more than nine years from his base in Shanghai, repeatedly making some of the best calls in the industry. Now he finds himself unemployed and living in a small community in rural Kentucky."

{More on the Wuling Sunshine at the BBC and the Detroit Free Press.}


  • this looks like an upgrade of the old mianbao che, or "breadloaf car" taxis. i fully expect these wuling sunshine vans to be the vehicle of choice in careening ad hoc taxi services in rural parts of china, beeping their tinny horns and weaving around traffic as the engine whines to keep the speed up enough to pass the dump truck on blind curve mountain roads.

    i am amazed that more companies don't realize the vast market in third world cheap fixes. anyone who came up with a cheap, nonpolluting auto-rickshaw or scooter, for example, would not only have a market waiting wide open for the taking, but would also probably have more effect on the environment than higher-level stuff like the kyoto treaty.

    i don't remember where i read this, but toyota is planning to market the prius to china, and i think was considering building a hybrid factory somewhere in the northeast rust belt, which is heartening. in the end, i really think the difference between a full-on global oil crisis of catastrophic proportions and muddling on by with mild shortages will rest on the critical question of whether we are capable of coming up with cheap and simple solutions to chinese and indian energy demands and pollution emissions. solve that conundrum and spread the solution as fast as possible, at cost if need be, and we dodge the bullet. focus on expensive high-tech stuff that is only marketed to the developed world, and we're in for a load of trouble.

    cheap solutions are key.

    By Anonymous wu ming, at 1:31 PM  

  • Brilliant comment, wu ming...and spot on. I read that name "Wuling Sunshine" and thought the same thing as you....that's our future, right there.

    What is good for citizens elsewhere in the world should be good for us too. And may soon have to be. We citizens in the industrial West need to begin to see ourselves, and by that I mean our political, environmental and economic self-interest, in this broader context.

    Cheap and simple solutions are applicable across the board, imo. Even here in the States, whether we help make them, or ultimately consume them as well.

    Now, any mini-van light enough to get 43 mpg in the city would get creamed in collisions here in the U.S....and 81 mph top speed??

    But that's another story.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 6:43 PM  

  • When I saw the report about this vehicle in the paper this morning, I felt angry. With the necessary safety modifications, this would be just the ticket for me. From April thru October, I do 90% of my trans by bike, but in winter I need a roof & heater (however rudimentary) and for camping and hauling wood and tools I could use a van the rest of the year. This thing would be ideal. I'm currently considering a Scion Xb, but would prefer something more van-like and basic. The Chinese get the smartest vehicles, but we force-fed excessive horsepower and absurd speeds.

    By Anonymous p.hopton, at 8:09 PM  

  • I see that this story is one of the most e-mailed at the NYT website.

    I am happy for the Chinese people who have access to this great product. But it makes me so sad for America. Our corporations have become so blinded by their own greed they can't recognize talent when they have it. They can't recognize an opportunity when it's right in front of them. And they push so hard against regulation inside of focusing their energy on innovation.

    It's depressing

    If I worked at Toyota or some other car company I would snatch Mr. Murtaugh up right away. He clearly has foresight and is gifted in his ability to motivate his employees

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:46 AM  

  • Just what I need! Lets get it ready for import. The lowest price cars here are 12,000 dollars plus and can't get close to the mileage!

    It just goes to show that the big companies don't want us to live economically. That would mess up their profits.

    Maybe we can work together with the Chinese government to get this thing over here. Watch Detroit howl!

    This vehicle could make a real dent in our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

    By Blogger blogman, at 7:59 PM  

  • I am amazed with this car. Seems very practical and straight forward. Yet it doesn't look like a crap. I'm just wondering how it's durability-dependabilty is. Are the parts cheap, too? Is it accessible?

    By Blogger metrolandia, at 7:42 AM  

  • I am the proud owner of a WULING 6376D, 7 seater luxury model. I live in GIBRALTAR and have been unable to obtain spares. Having just broken the left side front window with the seatbelt buckle, I cannot get a replacement which means I can't use it. PLEASE HELP ME TO FIND ANOTHER WINDOW. My contact detail on my cell phone is: (00350) 540 22 138. Leave a message and I'll phone back. Thanks, John Leslie - Gibraltar

    By Blogger johnleslie, at 12:36 PM  

  • I am looking for a left front window and electric wind-up mechanism for a 2004 model WULING 6376D. Please help as I'm DESPERATE
    John Leslie

    By Blogger johnleslie, at 12:40 PM  

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