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A blast from the previous for the long run: Is there room for Wuling’s retro Mini EV idea?

A new retro concept version of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV has emerged in China and begs a number of questions. Will SAIC-GM-Wuling produce the retro Mini EV despite it being a third-party design? Would GM consider bringing the popular EV to the United States? And lastly, does a customer base just starting to dip its toe in the world of futuristic EVs want a retro-looking vehicle?

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is a battery electric microcar that has been sold in China since 2020. As an extremely affordable BEV option produced through the joint venture of SAIC-GM-Wuling, the Hongguang Mini EV has skyrocketed in popularity during its short time on the market.

In less than two years, the Mini EV sold over 500,000 units to become the only EV to outsell Tesla in China. In April 2021, SAIC-GM-Wuling introduced the Mini EV Macaron – a premium, customized variant with exclusive paint colors and additional features coming standard.

Next comes the convertible version called the Mini EV Cabrio, which first debuted at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. That version is scheduled to enter production in China this year, and will see a rebadged model enter Europe as the FreZe Nikrob Cabrio.

The latest news out of China includes images of a retro Mini EV concept, and although it remains just a concept for now, SAIC-GM-Wuling’s promotion of the retro style EV makes us wonder if it may soon be joining the Mini fleet.

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV compared to a rendering of a retro version

As reported by CarNewsChina, Wuling’s Hongguang Mini EV has received another concept iteration, this time fully retro. As far as we can tell, Wuling did not design the retro Mini EV, or its images, but the Chinese automaker did promote the concept on its official social accounts.

Could Wuling be considering bringing this retro Mini EV to the market? Crazier things have happened. As you can see from the image comparison above, the retro design veers a bit from the original Mini EV, particularly the front end.

  • retro mini ev

Rounded headlights protrude out further from the front end and are joined by a chrome plated bumper. The shape of the side profile is roughly the same apart from partially covered rear wheels. We’ve noticed that the back end of the retro concept resembles the production version most – particularly the tail lights which are a near identical match, albeit with a different Wuling logo.

The bumper has been lowered and again plated in chrome to match the front and more closely resemble a coupe from the 1950s. Exterior accents like a wicker basket hanging off the back and luggage rack on the top give this EV the feeling of a retro family stationwagon – all packed into a micro-sized body.

There is no official word from Wuling that it will be producing the retro Mini EV, but the automaker definitely hasn’t shot down the idea yet. This is the same company that launched a “Gameboy Edition” of the Mini EV because the Macaron’s customer base has been dominantly female.

Are Chinese consumers interested in a retro style EV that still serves modern day functions without those pesky emissions? For under $5,000, we say, “Why not?”

Electrek’s Take

Concept or not, this is a cool spin on a wildly popular BEV in China. The Chinese outlets seem to think that there’s a genuine possibility that SAIC-GM-Wuling gets this retro Mini EV made, despite it being designed by a third party.

The standard, more modern-day-looking version of the Mini EV continues to dominate sales in China and has made its way over to Europe as well. With GM as part of the joint venture, will we see this micro EV in the United States as well? Despite those loud and proud Mini and Fiat fans stateside (respect), North America has a documented history of preferring larger SUVs rather than tiny NEVs (RIP smart car US).

Realistically, it might be tough for any iteration of the Mini EV to pass safety standards in the United States, so it feels like a long shot. However, the idea that smaller EVs have become so affordable that you can buy a retro version of one for a fraction of the cost of a full-sized car is enticing.

I don’t see the Mini EV selling anywhere else as well as it does in China, but for the price, I could see it as a fun little toy for people to commute with and cruise around running errands. In the United States, you’d definitely get more retro customers than those interested in the “Gameboy Edition.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with either of them, but if you’re going to make a tiny video game EV, why not make one that looks like one of its parents was a 1950s TV set? Could you imagine the Griswolds driving around in this thing during National Lampoons Vacation?

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