It’s been more than 3 years that the new Auto Policy 2016-21 took into effect. The primary goal of the policy was to break the monopoly of 3 Japanese automakers in the market, create competition between players, shorten the delivery period, eliminate own/ premium, bring down car prices and improve the quality of products offered to the customers.
Since the policy was announced, more than 12 automakers have announced to collaborate with different companies in Pakistan, under the Greenfield as well as Brownfield investment categories. These automobile companies have collectively made an investment of more than $800 million in our country.
A Flurry of Commercial Pickups and Minivans
So far however, the bulk of what has been introduced is either in the form of commercial pickups or minivans. Newcomers including Master Motors has introduced Changan Karvaan minivan and M9 pickup, Regal Automobiles (Prince) has launched DFSK C37 van, K07 minivan and K01 pickup, JW Forland has introduced a range of light & medium range commercials pickups and Khalid Mushtaq Motors is in process of introducing KYC branded KY10 pickup and V5 minivan.
Also during the previous year, Ghandhara Nissan Limited (GNL) has introduced the JAC X200 pickup, Dewan launched the Daehan Shehzore, Kia has launched the Frontier pickup while more newcomers including Pak-China Motors, Sazgar Automobiles, Topsun Motors and United Motors will introduce their range of pickups and minivans in Pakistan.
On a positive note, Pak Suzuki updated their lineup by introducing imported Vitara SUV and Ciaz sedan, replaced the MK-II Cultus with Celerio and has already announced to discontinue 30-year old Mehran and will launch Alto 660cc as a replacement. Furthermore United has launched the Bravo hatchback which, in the absence of Mehran has become the cheapest option available in the market and will soon be joined by Prince Pearl 800cc.
Recently Hyundai-Nishat has rather disappointed the masses with the launch of outrageously priced Santa Fe SUV. Available between PKR 16.0 million to PKR 18.5 million (read 1 crore 85 lac only) the South Korean SUV is priced nearly three times higher than what its available for in other markets across the globe.
In a nutshell, the auto policy which was supposed to generate the competition our market is nowhere to be seen. The market is still dominated by the three Japanese players, there is still no competition between these players as they enjoy oligopoly, delivery time still spans for several months, the menace of own/ premium still exist at large, car prices are on the rise whereas the quality of vehicles is yet to meet the export standards. The public is either on the mercy of the same 3 Japanese players, or have to buy cheap unbranded Chinese cars with no repute or recognition whatsoever.
Ray of Hope
No newcomer at this point is willing to challenge the Big 3, instead they are either targeting a premium market segment and looks contended to sell a dozen units a month, or prefer bringing a plethora of minivans or pickups. Thankfully however, there is still a hope for us in form of Al-Haj which is currently the only non-Japanese player willing to go into the battlefield against the Big 3.
Al-Haj FAW Motors was incorporated as a Private Limited Company in October 2006. Started with two variants of heavy duty trucks, the company currently offer 1.0L FAW Carrier pickup, 1.0L XPV passenger van and 1.3L V2 hatchback and dominates the truck market with a good range of heavy duty vehicles. The company started its operations in Pakistan with 7 acres of land in 2006, whereas it now has an operating land of nearly 35 acres.
In 2017, Al-Haj joined hands with Hyundai heavy vehicles to introduce top-of-the-line heavy commercial vehicles through a technology transfer contract under the subsidiary Al-Haj Hyundai Pvt. Ltd. It sells a heavy duty XCIENT truck, UNIVERSE Luxury buses for intercity travel, and MIGHTY medium and light duty trucks.
On the 29th of August 2018, Al-Haj signed an agreement with Malaysian carmaker Proton (now owned by Geely of China) as the exclusive authorized distributor and assemblers of Proton vehicles in Pakistan. As per the agreement, Al-Haj will introduce modern and technologically advanced vehicles including hatchbacks, sedans, crossovers, SUVs and MPVs in Pakistan.
Proton Saga 1.3L
Later towards the end of the year, 1.6 liter Proton Exora MPV as well as 1.3 liter Proton Saga subcompact sedan began appearing on the roads as Al-Haj is currently carrying out testing and trials of these vehicles and will most likely launch the Saga sedan towards the end of this year. We also inspected one of the test units of the Proton Saga and were thoroughly impressed by its built quality and features on offer. It’s a quantum leap if you compare with the Protons by Royal Automobiles, that appeared in our market during the previous decade.
Related: The Upcoming 1.3L Proton Saga Sedan
Proton Saga will probably be the only quality option by a new brand that will come within the range of the masses. Reportedly it will be priced around Cultus VXL AGS and will be available in both manual as well as automatic transmission option. Click here to read more about the upcoming Proton Saga.
FAW V2 by Al-Haj already takes on against 3 Suzuki hatchbacks, and comes equipped with safety features & equipment for a reasonable amount of money. Proton Saga too, is expected to do well in our market and can cut a good share of the likes of Honda City and Suzuki Swift. As per our information, other than just Saga, the company is planning to introduce more Proton branded vehicles in Pakistan that will compete in premium as well as mass-market segments.
With none of the newcomers willing to launch products that are going to create problems for the Big 3, the launch of Proton Saga will be a bold and appreciable move by Al-Haj. And with more Proton models in the pipeline, Al-Haj will have an absolute edge over existing as well as newcomers in our market.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com