THE name Maxus may be vaguely familiar to Malaysians. If you cannot recall where you have seen the name, here is a little something to jog your memory. It is the emblem seen on the familiar green, red and white “Massimo” bread trucks, which regularly ply the roads delivering loaves of bread to your neighbourhood sundry shop.
The story of how these delivery vans, which were originally known as the LDV Maxus eventually became the Maxus V80 is long and convoluted.
But briefly, the British light commercial vehicle manufacturer once known as LDV DAF, Leyland DAF vans can trace its roots all the way back to 1896, at Leyland in England, the United Kingdom.
Throughout its long history, it has been owned for a time by the Russian GAF group, before landing in the hands of the current owner, SAIC Motors of Shanghai in 2009. Along the way, the name of the van model, Maxus, has morphed into the name of the vehicle manufacturer itself.
The current company, SAIC Maxus Automotive Co Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of SAIC Motor Corporation Limited.
The company builds multipurpose vehicles (MPV), sports utility vehicles (SUV), motorhomes, wide bodied light passenger vehicles, and light and medium size vans, and various special purpose vehicles under the SAIC Yuejin brand.
The company has three production bases in Wuxi, Nanjing and Liyang, China. The Wuxi plant has an annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles, while the Nanjing SAIC Yuejin plant has a capacity of 100,000. The Liyang plant is the world’s largest motorhome manufacturer, with production exceeding 25,000.
In addition to the Chinese plants, Maxus also has production facilities in Malaysia and Thailand.
During our media tour in Shanghai, we visited the Wuxi plant.
The factory produces 200 vehicles a day, a mixture of the various models in the Maxus lineup, which include the V80 window and panel vans as well as the G10 MPV, and their latest products, the T60 pickup truck and D90 SUVs.
At the centre of the plant are eight massive metal presses from the old factory in England. When SAIC (which is China’s biggest automaker, selling over six million cars last year in China) bought over LDV, it obtained its physical assets, along with intellectual property and technological platform. The company shipped Britain’s light commercial vehicle manufacturer back in more than 2,700 shipping containers, reassembling the entire operation back in Wuxi.
In addition to the plant, we also toured the testing grounds where all SAIC vehicles, including the Maxus range are tested before they are released.
Known as the Guangde Proving Ground, located in Guangde County, Anhui, the 5.67 sq km test facility is one of the biggest in the world, and was built at a cost of RMB1.6 billion (RM1 billion). It has 60km of test roads, which are capable of replicating 67 driving conditions. Every year, some 20 million km of test driving of SAIC vehicles are done here.
From a distance, a massive white bridge, which is actually used to test vehicle performance and braking on slopes, is visible. In the distance, gigantic electric windmills can be seen perched on the hills surrounding the test area.
The facility is circled by a four lane high speed oval which is 10km-long, and where vehicles can be tested at speeds of up to 280kph.
THE CURRENT MAXUS LINEUP
What started off as just the Maxus V80 van, which was a reworking and modernisation of the original LDV Maxus design has now expanded to a range of vehicles.
The G10 MPV, which was released here in April last year by local distributor Weststar Maxus Malaysia was initially released in China in 2014, along with the SAIC Maxus EV80, a pure electric wide-bodied light passenger van with a range of more than 360km. Equipped with high-capacity lithium batteries, the EV80 can be fully charged in just two hours and has a maximum power of 100kw and torque of 320Nm.
Last year, the company unveiled the T60 pickup at the Guangzhou Automobile Exhibition. This truck is also built in the Wuxi plant, using hot forming technology and laser welding and high strength steel in its manufacture.
The pickup truck is manufactured with a choice of high and low chassis and double cab or double cab extended. It is powered by a 2.8 litre diesel engine producing 110kw and 360Nm of torque matched to a choice of a 5 speed manual, 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto gearbox. Boasting a ANCAP 5-star safety and six-airbags, as well as a long list of features which include Remote Keyless Entry and adaptive LED headlights, the truck will most likely make an appearance in Malaysia soon.
In 2016 as well, the electric MPV, the EG10 also made its debut in China.
During our visit at the Shanghai Motor Show, Maxus unveiled its latest D90 SUV, its latest product which may also make a Malaysian debut.
The massive seven-seater sport utility vehicle (SUV) is more than 5.2m long and 2.05m wide, and was developed with a new customer-centric approach, with extensive input from its home base customers through social media platforms.