Ora Good Cat production begins in Rayong, Thailand, in a former GM plant that produced the Holden Colorado and a number of other models.
The EV offers a choice of 43- and 64-kWh battery packs, with the latter rated at 260 miles in the WLTP cycle.
Great Wall Motor, the automaker behind the Ora and Haval brands, is one of a group of Chinese automakers that have worked to expand to export markets in the EV era.
Great Wall Motor may not be a household name in the US just yet, but this Chinese automaker has just become the first to launch EV production outside of China. And it did so in a plant that had belonged to GM until very recently.
GWM has kicked off production of the Ora Good Cat in Rayong, Thailand, in a plant that had produced the Australian-market version of the previous-gen Chevrolet Colorado under the Holden brand for right-hand drive markets in the region until 2020, in addition to the Holden Trailblazer.
The closure of the Holden brand in 2020, after decades of car production in Australia, saw the factory purchased by Great Wall, which began producing vehicles under the Haval brand there the following year. PHEV production had also started at Rayong since that time, delivering another first for Great Wall among Chinese automakers.
The Ora Good Cat—the least expensive EV on sale in Australia since its launch last year with a starting price of about $26,000 USD—offers a choice of 48- and 63-kWh battery packs, with the larger battery rated at 260 miles in the WLTP cycle.
The start of Good Cat production in Thailand for the Ora brand, known for whimsical names and exterior designs, comes just after battery pack supplier S-Volt has completed a factory nearby and plans to begin operations in the first half of 2024, aiming for 60,000 battery packs a year.
Among other things, this should make Rayong an important outpost for Great Wall's ambitions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Great Wall itself has been one of China's export success stories, with Australia being one of the brand's most notable export markets for its workhorse SUVs and utes.
The automaker's other brands, including Haval and Ora, are more recent additions, with Haval traditionally occupying the luxury brand role in the Chinese domestic market. The Ora Good Cat itself has also been on sale in the UK since 2022 badged as the GWM Ora 03, and as the Ora Funky Cat elsewhere in Europe.
Great Wall's accomplishment is certainly a first for China's domestic auto industry, and it doesn't look like it will be a one-off.
Just days ago BYD, another Chinese EV success story, revealed plans for a second factory in Hungary after launching bus production there a few years ago. The relatively young Shenzhen-based automaker plans to produce EVs in Szeged, Hungary, later in the decade, after launching sales in Europe and opening 230 retail locations in 19 countries.
European demand for EVs is certainly driving this trend, and BYD is by no means the only Chinese automaker with a presence in Europe at the moment.
Nio has been on a battery-swap station building spree in northern Europe after launching sales of its luxury electric models in the region, while SAIC's MG brand has seen quite a bit of growth recently in the UK.
Great Wall, BYD, Nio and others are indeed part of a wave of EV makers that are seeking to win over new markets in record time thanks to a steadily growing EV boom and stumbles by a number of established automakers, while also facing some political headwinds in Europe and Australia.
Will Chinese EVs be able to obtain a significant slice of the electric vehicle market in Europe, or is this a temporary trend? Let us know what you think.