In conversation with Imran Zaman Khan, Divisional Director of DHS Autos Limited, on setting the wheels in motion for the arrival of a major Chinese automotive brand, Changan.
What is the current situation of the Bangladesh automobile industry and where is it headed?
The automobile industry in Bangladesh has seen a 25% degrowth compared to last year. The government’s restriction on LC due to reserve shortage and the price hike of brand-new cars due to currency depreciation is the principal cause behind the degrowth. However, the share of the brand-new segment has been steadily increasing and accounts for about 18% of the passenger car market. The popularity of brand-new cars is projected to see a sharp rise in upcoming years as the government has already enacted policies to encourage local assembly. All the major brands have either started assembly in their own facilities or in various stages of development. Chinese brands have been gaining market share thanks to their technological advancements and lucrative pricing. Chinese cars are set to dominate the mass passenger car market in the coming years.
Please tell us about the brand Changan and about yourself, DHS Autos.
Changan, a prominent member of the Big4 automotive brands in China, boasts an illustrious 157-year history and 35 years of expertise in crafting and marketing passenger vehicles. Pioneering China’s automotive landscape, today, over 8,500 consumers choose Changan vehicles daily. Positioned at the forefront of the electric vehicle (EV) industry, Changan’s promising lineup integrates intelligent driving features, signalling a bright future.
DHS Autos is a sister concern of DHS Motors Limited. Changan will also be partnering with RANCON Group for their assembly operation from 2024. DHS Motors Limited, recognised as a trailblazer in automotive innovation in Bangladesh, currently upholds the pinnacle of service excellence for Honda Motor Co. Ltd. In a strategic move, Changan will join DHS to share service facilities with Honda, ensuring an unparalleled commitment to quality that aligns with the legacy DHS has established in Bangladesh.
As a new entrant in an already crowded industry, how does Changan plan to differentiate itself?
Changan’s Alsvin is placed in the segment where Japanese reconditioned cars are currently dominating. Changan is superior to its competitors due to its specifications paired with our offerings. We are offering our customers a chance to own a brand-new car with a five-year warranty and free service as well as original spare parts. Also, Changan’s upcoming SUV and EV lineup is exquisite. Changan has a unique lineup of Range Extender Electric Vehicles (REEV) which can become the first EV lineup assembled in the country.
Are there any new opportunities in the local automobile market, particularly, any developments in the EV space?
Most Dhaka residents commute an average of 15 kilometres a day, or about 3 hours. Changan’s S7 covers 520 kilometres on a single charge. Most users won’t exhaust the full range of their EVs, given the typical daily commuting distance in Bangladesh. This aligns with the global shift towards electric cars, driven by the potential to reduce emissions compared to petrol-powered vehicles. We are confident about Bangladesh’s transition to electric vehicles over the next 20 to 30 years. Electric vehicles represent a step in the right direction, even if electricity generation isn’t always entirely clean.
Despite some challenges such as the lack of charging infrastructure and people’s hesitancy to adopt new technology, we believe that once Bangladesh experiences the superior performance and lower maintenance requirements of an electric car, the shift will happen rapidly. A quiet and pleasant driving experience, reduced maintenance, and lower operational costs make electric cars a lucrative option for the Bangladesh market. The introduction of the Battery Disposal Policy 2019 was a significant step towards attracting global automakers, emphasising the nation’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
Challenges remain, including discrepancies in the vehicle registration process related to kilowatt-hour rating versus horsepower. Instead of measuring battery capacity, as is standard worldwide, Bangladesh’s Road Transport Authority (BRTA) measures motors. There are concerns regarding the current registration fees as well. Changan’s entry into the electric car market, with its S7 and SL03 models in the lineup represents a pivotal moment in Bangladesh’s transition towards sustainable transportation.
What are Changan’s long-term plans for the Bangladesh market and where do you see yourself in the future?
The automotive sector in Bangladesh is transitioning towards electric vehicles, initially observed in the premium segment. Much like the shift from sedans to SUVs, consumer preferences are aligning with the trend toward EVs. Changan, with its highly promising EV lineup featuring the S series, presents an enticing proposition for consumers, blending aggressive pricing with cutting-edge technology. The AVATR 11, an emotionally intelligent EV, serves as another noteworthy example.
In anticipation of market demands, we have already taken steps to commence Completely Knocked Down (CKD) operations for Changan, ensuring a soon-to-be-available presence in the market. This strategic move is poised to enhance our competitive pricing and accessibility.
Looking ahead, we envision Changan leading the automotive industry, competing head-to-head, if not surpassing industry leaders in the long run.
Photograph by Shihab Mohammad