By on November 29, 2009

Get the skinny on cool bears. Picture courtesy channel4.com

China’s Greatwall is apparently hell-bent on selling their Coolbear MPV in Europe next year. China Car Times reports that Greatwall has received the ECE Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA,) awarded by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA.) The WVTA testing covers 48 different tests; 13 on active safety, 13 on passive safety and 8 on emissions and environmental protection. Passing the test makes the Coolbear legal to sell all over Europe and in any and all countries that accept the ECE regimen.

With the VCA, Greatwall has chosen one of the more, well, lenient testing organizations. Others are said to be more rigorous. As our resident ECE-guru Daniel Stern and Wikipedia will likewise confirm, “when an item is type approved for a regulation by one participating country, then the approval is accepted by all other participating countries.” And so, the Coolbear will be let out of his cage and can go ravaging the markets that acceded to the WVTA protocol.

The Coolbear has received massive styling cues from Japanese boxes-on-wheels, namely the Nissan Cube and the Toyota Scion. Thetycho China Automotive Consultancy actually went so far as to state that “the modeling for the Cool Bear was done by a Toyota Scion B, Great Wall did change a few parts however, most noticeable the logo and headlights.”

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28 Comments on “Chinese Bears on the Loose in Europe...”


  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    You’d have to be mad to buy or get even ride in one of the vehicles being sold in Australia, and now they’re being heavily promoted.
    “The results for the Great Wall vehicles were particularly disappointing as these are new models to the market. The V240 has dual airbags but these failed to protect the driver and passenger from injury in our crash tests.”
    This is welcome news for non-Chinese manufacturers; a few years of this sort of poorly performing garbage and it should set them back for generations of buyers.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i’m interested to see how the GWM Hover does in AU and NZ – here’s a 4,000lb SUV with a 5 spd manual and a 2.4 litre 100kW/200Nm petrol four… with a population very adverse to slow self shifting SUVs…
     
    0-60 miles (100km/h) will be a good 20 secs

  • avatar
    happy-cynic

    PeterMoran, Thanks for the heads-up on these cars. I shiver at  the time they reach our shores.
     

  • avatar
    don1967

    The implications of a Chinese car being legal for sale all over Europe are profound, and to dwell on its deficiencies is to completely miss the point.   They’re here, and they are going to change the face of the auto industry forever.

  • avatar

    styling cues???! looks like a copy to me.

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      The first time I heard of the Greatwall Coolbear a couple of years ago, it was a direct copy of the 1st-gen Toyota bB/Scion xB; it looks like this refresh takes that same unibody and made the front clip look like a Corolla Rumion/2nd-gen xB.
       
      On the upside (or downside, probably), if I need replacement doors and trim, Greatwall has ready-made knockoffs that will probably bolt right up to my xB.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “With the VCA, Greatwall has chosen one of the more, well, lenient testing organizations. Others are said to be more rigorous.”
    That is a pretty strong dig against a UK government agency. Do you have anything to back it up?
     

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      The author of this article deals with every aspect of type approvals every day; he knows what he’s talking about and he’s quite right. It has long been well known amongst those whose products need ECE type approval that some testing organisations are a good bit less strict than others. This doesn’t necessarily indicate bad-faith disregard for the regulations; there are many situations in which interpretive analysis is called for, so testing labs actually have quite a bit of leeway in applying the test protocols set forth in the regulations. That’s why a headlamp, for example, marked (E11) or (E13)—UK or Luxembourg, respectively—is just as legal throughout the ECE-accepting world as a lamp marked (E1) or (E4)—Germany or Netherlands—but the UK- or Luxembourg-tested lamps are less likely to comply, and those that do comply tend to do so by a lower margin, when retested elsewhere. Virtually every mass-market Chinese-made lamp that has a (real) E-mark has an E13; regulators and high-level buyers alike know exactly why and what it means.
       
      At the other end of the scale, it is common in the wholesale parts business for an E-mark generally recognised as superior—such as E1, E2, or E4—to be used as a selling point, particularly on parts that come from parts of the world with reputations for dubious indigenous quality.
      Recently the race to the bottom has accelerated: once one testing authority gets a little lax, those makers whose products can’t, won’t, or don’t pass the tests in (say) Germany flock to the less-stringent lab, and from there it’s a rather steep drop: to win back the business, other labs have to lower their standards, and so the original corner-cutters drift lower and lower, to the point where as long as your cheque clears, you get your rubberstamp type approval.
      Suppose you manufacture a vehicle or a regulated vehicle component, and you receive word from the German type approval authority: “I’m sorry, your component/vehicle does not comply with all applicable provisions of all applicable regulations.”  You can either analyse the failure, redesign the component or vehicle, retool, and submit the new-design component or vehicle for testing, which will take a great deal of money and time, or you can go write a cheque to the outfit in Luxembourg, get your original-design component or vehicle approved, and start sellin’ ‘em. Which do you do? Which do you think your shareholders want you to do?

      Your logical next step might be to say the reciprocal-recognition principle behind ECE type approval is pointless, and theoretically you’d be right to some degree, but the crap that won’t even kinda-pass a lax ECE type approval test gets sent to the American market where ECE type approval is neither required nor recognised.

      There’s a fairly good amount of substantive literature on the subject, but most of it is copyrighted and available only as part of an expensive purchase of proceedings from various technical symposia and conferences.

  • avatar
    thebanana

    If I want to buy a Soul I’ll  go to a Kia dealership.

  • avatar

    John Horner: If you don’t believe me, ask Daniel Stern. If you insist on a stronger dig:  If VCA wouldn’t be owned by the UK government, and wouldn’t be certification authority and technical service rolled into one, they would have long lost their accreditation. VCA’s lax attitude, paired with bargain basement prices, are known throughout the industry. No wonder the VCA is popular in China, and no wonder E11 has turned into a dubious honor. You will have to take my word on this.  Or read between the lines of the diplomatic Wikipedia article that says “although all countries’ type approvals are legally equivalent, there are real and perceived differences in the rigour with which the regulations and protocols are applied by different national type approval authorities… Within the auto parts industry, a German (E1) type approval, for example, is regarded as a measure of insurance against suspicion of poor quality or an undeserved type approval.”  Everybody in the industry knows what that means.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Interesting stuff. I read the Wikipedia entry as well as the documentation footnoted re: the quoted superiority of E1 approvals ( http://candlepowerinc.com/pdfs/Metal_Signal.pdf ) . Said document is a marketing sheet from a light bulb maker bragging about being E1 approved. Oddly enough for such a seemingly controversial matter, google turns up little of interest about the differences between various national type approval agencies within the EU system. My experiences with the German Engineering and Manufacturing have not exactly lived up to the superior image Germany works so hard to project.
       

  • avatar
    abcars

    I’ve a feeling Stephen Colbert will wag his finger on this “coolbear”.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    What will be interesting is the real-world crash test data.

    Moreover, once people realize that Walmart’s crash-testing standards are the same for the Coolbear and the Barbie-Electric-Dream-Vette…

    Will they drive more safely?

  • avatar
    mcs

    Funny, it’s probabaly not the kind of vehicle a bear would drive. I assume they prefer big v8 Detroit muscle cars.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Funny, it’s probabaly not the kind of vehicle a bear would drive.

    Define “bear”…

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I have a new idea.  I will stop being bothered by the Chinese automakers’ shameless copying of other cars if they will put that talent to good use.  Hey Greatwall, how about making me a copy of a ’62 Lincoln convertible.  While you’re at it, please toss in a ’55 Nomad and a ’64 Corvair.  I’ll even tolerate your giving them silly names.  ‘Bout those crash tests?  Well, it’s not like the originals had airbags of any kind.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Ok, so there was the debacle of the Landwind, and the debaclelet of the BS6 killing and or maiming their anthropomorphic occupants.  The Chinese are very good at learning, so perhaps the Cool Bear will pass the lowest bar and perhaps even gain a reasonable market acceptance (call it Clan of the Cool Bear if you will.)  But the cool-bear segment is hardly the sweet-spot of the market, just like Normandy was not the sweet spot of the 3rd Reich.  Cool Bear is a beach-head.  Just as Toyopet and Crown opened the door for Corolla and Camry (and for a host of others), so have/will the Landwind, BS6 and Cool Bear open the door for the ones to follow…

    That said, who is going to perform the compliance testing necessary to ensure that the chinese manufacturers do not, for example, replace the boron-steel used in the A-pillars of the crash-homologation car with regular steel once the car is in production?

    Think this is an abstraction?  Google “chinese toothpaste glycerin glycol”, or “chinese toys lead paint”, or “chinese valve stem embrittlement” and you will get a sense of what I mean.
    Perhaps the Chinese OEM’s have as strong a product validation and change-control management system as western OEM’s, but as the supply-chain works itself down into the lower tiers, product reliability and quality will become increasingly prone to the culturally accepted approach of “cheating” to increase fractional marginal profit.
    Unless and until China Inc. becomes synonymous with safety, quality, and reliability (“Made in China = Made Perfect!”), concerns surrounding these three will inhibit China’s march off the beach, and into Europe’s market and segment sweet-spots.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I just put my pointer over the picture to get the “caption.”  Hardy, har, har.  I think the model needs airbags more badly than the car does.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    That said, who is going to perform the compliance testing necessary to ensure that the chinese manufacturers do not, for example, replace the boron-steel used in the A-pillars of the crash-homologation car with regular steel once the car is in production?

    Answer:  The same people watching the toothpaste, dogfood, lead-based paint, valve-stems, drywall, and oh yeah, a frightening percentage of your legitimate pharmaceuticals (not to mention the fakes).

    Nobody. Except the end-user.
    By the time they anyone discovers the cheats, our new Chinese overlords will have long since taken most markets over.

  • avatar

    In the compliance department, the ECE has something called COP, or Conformity of Production. The manufacturer has to put in systems that must prove at any point that the manufactured product conforms with the product tested and approved. The certifying body can do re-tests and spring surprise audits on the manufacturer. No compliance can mean loss of certification to the manufacturer. This is different than the US system, where the onus is on the importer, and the importer just closes shop if something major happens. However, again the “rigour with which the regulations and protocols are applied by different national type approval authorities” varies.
     
     

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    I am fairly certain that all of the parts behind the front clip on the Greatwall Coolbear and the previous generation Toyota bB/Scion xB are completely interchangeable.

    A door or the rear hatch of a bB/xB could be bolted directly onto the Coolbear, or vice versa.

    This is fine in China, but could likely become a serious export issue.

    Also, even when welded together by Japanese robots the previous generation bB/xB wasn’t that safe of a car, so the Coolbear, a previous generation bB/xB put together by Chinese peasants with stick welders, is inherently not going to be a safe car.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Also, even when welded together by Japanese robots the previous generation bB/xB wasn’t that safe of a car, so the Coolbear, a previous generation bB/xB put together by Chinese peasants with stick welders, is inherently not going to be a safe car.

    It’s not really that third world. At least in the tech factories. Cheap labor or not, robots are just too fast and too accurate to leave welding to humans.

    Besides, have you ever tried to stick weld pot metal?

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    re: porschespeed

     Theirin lies the rub.  I have no doubt that the joint ventures and some of the stand alone chinese manufacturers are using German or Japanese robotic equipment for the automated assembly of very high quality car bodies/bodies in white.  But that undermines China’s traditional “our labor is cheaper than your machines” advantage over the West.

    Machines basically cost the same to run anywhere (other than the cost of the land they are on and the advantage of lax environmental laws), so they should probably be set up close to the consumer, especially since future energy costs will drive up logistics costs,  instead of in a far away cheap labor country.

    The pot metal twist was rather good.

  • avatar
    redshift.flipgear

    Wow, after the Peri/Panda debacle here comes Great Wall Motors again…


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