2017 set the tone for a new kid on the block in the motoring industry. BAIC, the fourth-largest automotive manufacturer in China, joined the South African motoring market with the intention of introducing well-priced vehicles to the general public, and in so doing, allows Joe Public to become vehicle owners. Pronounced as “bike”, BB Hatfield BAIC promotes these reasonably priced and well-specced vehicles with pride, noting practicality and affordability as this brand’s leading qualities.
Twenty-one years ago, André Gouws entered the motoring industry with a passion for cars, and an innate ability to identify and develop skills for those around him. These fine qualities are what makes him an ideal Dealer Principal for BB Hatfield BAIC. André is emphatic about his drive to always manage with a “personal touch”, and notes that this Dealership is characterised by commitment to develop professional trust-based relationships with clients. Following on his talent for developing skills from within his ranks, André prioritises training and instils a customer-centric approach for his staff; the proof is evident in the number of repeat clients that often request team members by name on their return visits.
In the motoring industry, one of the greatest advantages is having experience across brands and roles. One such individual, Stefan Schoeman, notes that his experience in both new and used car sales is what enabled him to become Sales Manager at BB Hatfield BAIC. As a child, Stefan had a love for motoring, and is thrilled at the opportunity to combine this with nature as a people’s person in order to forge long-lasting relationships with his clients. Emphasising the importance of supporting the client through after-care services, Stefan firmly believes that this Dealership has mastered the art of making an impact on the local community through fundraisers and donations to schools and the likes in the Pretoria area.
I always find it refreshing when meeting individuals who are new to the industry, as I find their enthusiasm and determination quite contagious. One such young lady is Lauren Thomson who is positioned as a Sales Representative at BB Hatfield BAIC, and who is positively brimming with energy. Driven to ensure all her clients leave happy with the outcome of a major decision (in this case, buying a vehicle) Lauren also shows great appreciation for the comprehensive training provided by the brand’s Chinese head office.
BAIC launched the X25 SUV in 2017 and noted that it is intended to provide a sense of adventure to the driver and passengers whilst maintaining comfort levels and sufficient features on board to keep even the most tech-conscious driver happy. As such, the X25 has a sporty, yet stylish design, with a sturdy body shape and proud lines. I like how it looks and was given the opportunity to drive it some time back.
The interior of the X25 is tasteful and relatively spartan in terms of dashboard-layout. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as I am not a fan of cluttered cockpits. A 7-inch touchscreen sits high on the dash and provides an interactive system that pairs your phone and the vehicle for multimodal usage (including Bluetooth and USB connections). Top-of-the-range variants have a lovely sunroof, which adds to the sense of space in an already generously spaced cabin. The variant I drove came equipped with a 19-inch subwoofer (which isn’t standard and needs to be added as an extra) and really spoke to me, being Indian and all.
Four variants of the X25 are available, although all are equipped with a 1.5 litre naturally aspirated engine, they are paired with either a manual or automatic gearbox. This produces 85 kW of power and 1148 Nm of torque, which is quite good for this segment. With two trim levels allocated, the X25 is released with fabric upholstery and a host of features that include ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, IsoFix child seat restraints, central locking, and rear parking radar. Whilst a rear view camera is only available on the mid- and high-end variants, other features that are available across the range include all-round electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels and daytime running lights.
I drove the manual variant and found it to be a confident, easy drive that was quite responsive to my commands. With a light-touch to the steering and handling, I was rather impressed with the quality of the drive for what the asking price is for this vehicle (which starts at around R219 990 for entry-level variants). With a few hard-touch materials in the cabin, I wasn’t necessarily steeped in luxury, but enjoyed the general feel of the vehicle as a whole.
Thinking back to my drive-time with the X25, I remember identifying the practicality of this SUV in the crisis situation where I drove the X25 on a search mission when my overly affectionate Husky and pampered Rhodesian Ridgeback went missing. Once found, I was supremely grateful for the extra leg room, huge boot space and general comfort of the cabin as my pets were easily loaded into the vehicle. In retrospect, I have to acknowledge the nippy character and agility of the vehicle that gave chase and caught up with my wandering pooches.
BB Hatfield BAIC represents the BAIC brand (which I am told represents “Better and Ingenious Choices” as well as being the trademark of the Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co.) with pride, and seeks to maintain the ideal of making well-priced vehicles with competitively-designed features and qualities available to everyone. Caring doesn’t end with the purchase of a vehicle at BB Hatfield BAIC either and subsequently there are always generous warranties and service plans (which include a first service free) that form part of the BB Hatfield BAIC experience.
Dealer Principals that remind clients and staff of their undivided attention should it be required, are my favourite kind: as such, André is a respected leader who shows total commitment to his customers and has been known to personally attend to customers in a hands-on, invested and empathic way.
Editor: Desh Bechan
Reporter and Author: Inge Stols & Belinda Anderson