What market opportunities encouraged you to bring JAC, a Chinese brand, to Mexico?
Some 15 years ago, we realized we had to set up a Mexican assembly plant that would allow us to establish ourselves here. The first Mexican assembly plant was opened in 2006 with a long-term business plan in place and was considered an important asset and investment in Mexico. The risk was first assembling the entire plant and then getting the permits to operate it. The complex covers 100,000sqm, with the assembly area alone measuring 55,000sqm. It is an exceptionally large plant. The second decision was to select commercial vehicles, since it is a rational purchase in terms of load, weight, consumption, traveling from point to point, and maintenance, while the purchase of cars is typically emotional. The third decision was to partner with the other established elements, specifically distributors' networks that today are the experts in managing their markets locally as well as with distributors channels with experience in the automotive and trucking area. This also meant we had to set up partnerships with banks and insurance companies that were already well established. In these years, we began to develop our distribution network, we learnt about assembly, we came to understood persistent issues, and we observed China's rise in the automotive industry. We understood the importance of Mexican assembly and the great challenge that working out of Mexico involves in terms of its roads, temperatures, humidity, the way of handling things, and so on, and that having a product imported from any country and bringing it here is uncommon. It has to be assembled here.
Why did GML decide to strengthen its digital services and establish one of the first digital showrooms in the automotive industry in Mexico?
In 2019, we decided to capitalize on our experience with the already formed business of vehicle assembly and manufacturing with the alliance with Molex. This vehicle is 100% electric and is directly manufactured by us. Today, it already has a fleet of more than 1,200 electric vehicles. In 2019, we decided to bring a complete line of electric vehicles to JAC with a whole digital structure, and we launched five vehicle models in November 2019. JAC is a strategic partner of a Chinese company and Volkswagen in electric vehicles, so it already had experience in this sector and in the largest sale of electric vehicles in China, which forced us to look for a digital platform more robust than the competition. We needed the support of a daily and personal monitoring with the user of one of these vehicles. This is where the investment that allows our platfaorm to be the most robust in the market comes from. It is a digital platform that supports all activities, such as sales, test driving, visualization of products in 3D, and so on. It involves microsites for each of the dealers and their operations; absolutely everything goes through the platform. In January 2020, we digitalized the company, a process that should have taken one or two years. In Mexico we are the number-one brand in sales of EV, and we plan on continuing to implement new models into our portfolio for both passengers and commercial vehicles.
How would you summarize 2020 for the company?
At a company level, in the current circumstances, the most important thing is moving forward and looking for alternatives. We suffered during the pandemic, though we were one of the brands with the least effect on sales; they only fell by 9%. In 4Q2020, there was 20% growth compared to 4Q2019. We launched three new models in 2020, and today they will be the important basis for 2021. No distributors left our network, but three more came onboard and opened two more stores. We grew in terms of distributors and sales. The platform provided greater brand awareness and recognition.