Weekend Edition 04 • “Get to know the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV”

Cheap, friendly, funny & fun: the many compelling special versions of China’s most popular EV, the 五菱宏光MiniEV

Weekend Edition 04 • “Get to know the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV”
“Look at all those (custom) EVs!” • source Wuling-GM

“History don’t repeat itself, it rhymes,” said Jay-Z1 on the track 100$ Bill—which is actually all I hope you remember from this article about China’s hottest, best-selling new energy vehicle. History rhymes.

Launched during the pandemic in mid-2020 and comfortably delivering 1,000 per day for more than 200 days straight, the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is more than meets its starting price around $5,000 Usd.

It’s very likely the world’s latest “people’s car”—and China’s first cultural car hit.

Let’s dive in.

To keep this article short and snappy, please refer to the lengthy sources section below for reading and source material linked throughout.
sales banner in chinese 五菱宏光MiniEV
advertisement celebrating the car’s sales milestone: 200,000 sold in 200 days. • source Wuling-GM

Are you an automaker and want to crate a vehicle that’s as much of a cultural icon as the Ford Model T, Fiat 500, Volkswagen Beetle, Honda Civic, Citroën 2CV, Austin Mini (Cooper), Suzuki Alto, Toyota Prius…or Wuling Mini EV2 ?

It’s a simple three step process:

  1. product
  2. marketing
  3. environment

First, the easy part. Design a compelling product with a strong quality-to-price ratio. It’s never about having the best styling, performance, comfort, or really any other fixed attribute (though many claim it is).

To be compelling, it must be create interest in an irresistible way—more on this in a moment.

Second, marketing. When we’re talking about the true G.O.A.T. sales champions in their respective eras, each utilized at least one marketing medium to perfection for igniting awareness.

Ford had newsprint.3 Adolf Hitler and Co. insidiously created the inexpensive Volksempfänger radio4 , where people could learn about the Strength through Joy Car (KdF-Wagen)5 and other German propaganda. (Blah, who cares. -mb) We’ll pick this point back up as well.

Third, the environment. What are those market forces driving people to spend money on your product?

In its time, a Model T got people off horses and bicycles. The Citroën 2CV did the same. A Fiat 500, Mini Cooper, or Honda Civic owner likely came from a motorcycle, moped, or larger vehicle. Consider people’s expectations.

Then: How much did fuel cost? Is it a great car for the monthly? Where do people need to go? What are they leaving behind? These factors change region to region, language to language, season by season.

All of this spins up a cycle and, together, creates something new—the remix, as Jay-Z put it.

Even with all three factors, success is not a sure thing. That’s the kicker.

So how can you tell ahead of time if a vehicle will be forever woven into popular culture and history? You can’t.

But you can watch it happen in real time.

Enter the Wuling Mini EV.


It’s inexpensive, for a car: about $5,000 Usd.

Overseas, however, think of it as the price as within reach of young women drivers. Or: within the reach of customers used to the convenience, app-based functionality, and cheapness of electric scooters. Small enough to fit into an inner city parking spot. Affordable, convenient, and compelling enough to earn a second glance.

Oh, you wanted the specs? So…it’s rear-wheel drive. In its hottest spec (the Macaron), 27 horsepower and 85 Nm (62 lb-ft) of torque. As range goes, figure as many as 170 km (110 mi) and as few as 120 km (75 mi) for the early cars. Its battery choices are appropriately tiny—9.2 kWh or 13.8 kWh.

Given its success, doubling down, investing in the car, and creating variants is exactly what Wuling should be doing…and what it is doing.

A Mini EV Cabrio is coming. More powerful (41 hp) and longer range (280 km / 173 mi) models are coming. Larger versions with more seats are in development.

So it begins.

That’s how you sell 523,102 cars in less than two years, during a persistent pandemic and resulting chip shortage.

• speedster.news


In the words of Wuling representatives, all of the car’s marketing is geared to young people. Specifically young women. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Mini EV owners are women, and 86% of owners were born after 1985. Figure heavy social media presence, blogging, the lot. If something is compelling, this demographic6 will find, customize, and share it.

Ever hear of Tik-Tok? It began as Douyin (抖音) in China, which is now filled with self-made celebrities reacting to, reviewing—and modifying the Mini EV. With special editions arriving on the market every few months and customizers doing their best to cash in, the cycle has already led Wuling to fund an entire event series focused on keeping the fire lit. It’s called “MINI DAY” (大人们的小乐园)…and we love it.

If it seems ridiculous to tie your entire personality to a car…then you must be new to cars. Happens. all. the. time.

Special shout-out here to the official website for the vehicle (linked below), which is really…what’s the word again? Compelling.

Bright colours, bold graphics, ridiculously staged photos—it’s as if the best of ’80s-’90s kei car advertising was reborn into a car website and fun to browse, even if you can’t read any of it.

Love it or leave it—just don’t sleep on it. The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is a thing. And cute as hell.

• speedster.news


Would you be more or less inclined to share an electric scooter during a pandemic? Take public transit? For your first car, do you want to shop used or get something new, with a warranty and network of 2,800 dealers?

Moreover, for about the cost of three Apple iPhones in China, you could instead have a car, a slice of personal transportation, and the freedom to roam where you please. Plus some frozen dessert shaped like your new car.

In a speaker’s panel, a marketing representative for Wuling said (translated) “We are not building a car,” meaning, it had to hit criteria that in turn defined the car and how it was marketed. It had to be convenient as a short distance car (within 30 km), meet all safety regulations, be economical to run, and have leading service support.

For qualified buyers, that means driving away in a new Mini EV with 10% down. With peace of mind from the digital sales and support system, low cost of ownership (target was ~5¢/km), and the “it” factor—approval from a bunch of hip, interesting, young, people.

That’s how you sell 523,102 cars in less than two years, during a persistent pandemic and resulting chip shortage.

With dealers in more than 70 countries and regions expressing interest7 in offering local versions of the car…expect to see more Mini EV-looking cars near you. (It’s already offered in Europe via Dartz as the €9,999 FreZe Nikrob EV.8 Convertible incoming soon.)

Those places clearly lack aspects of what sparked this trend and rapid adoption in China. To a shopper in Europe, is it a more compelling or less expensive alternative to a used MINI, smart, or Renault Zoe electric? Likely not.

Love it or leave it—just don’t sleep on it. The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is a thing.

And cute as hell. 🥺

by Michael Banovsky

sources & citations • SAIC-GM-Wuling (Mini EV, Mini EV Macaron); Wuling x Pantone (media.gm.com); Wheelsboy review (YouTube), espresso bar in the back of a Mini EV (video, weibo.com)

  1. Quoting rap lyrics is…not cool (Last Week Tonight). Ari Melber explains himself (Genius)
  2. “China EV Maker Betting on Cult Status to Sell a Million Cars” (Bloomberg)
  3. “Advertising the Model T” (thehenryford.org)
  4. “Inside the Third Reich’s Radio” (spectrum.ieee.org)
  5. “Autoerotisch: The VW Beetle” (London Review of Books)
  6. Derisively, some call these “Wuling Girls” (China Marketing Insights)
  7. “Popular Wuling EVs to hit global markets in 2022” (chinadaily.com)
  8. “World's Craziest Automaker Reveals Dirt Cheap EV” (carbuzz.com)

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