Xiali, a former leading domestic auto brand, is struggling and looking to rebrand after a recent voluntary production suspension.
FAW Xiali plans to roll out new models and begin producing new energy vehicles in the second half of this year to attract new customers and revive the brand, according to an unnamed manager at the company.
Tianjin Municipality-based Xiali, known nationwide as a leading low-cost auto brand, reported zero sales and zero production in April, according to a report released by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange earlier this month.
"The suspension is temporary, and the company is making adjustments to its market positioning and brand building," said the manager.
Tianjin Automotive Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. assembled the first Xiali vehicle with imported parts in 1986. In 2002, auto giant FAW Group acquired the majority of the company's shares, targeting the low-end vehicle market.
The brand topped domestic auto sales for 18 consecutive years, peaking in 2011, when it became the first choice for family vehicles and taxi operations.
However, with increasing incomes and more choices for Chinese consumers, Xiali, not known for its comfort levels, has fallen out of favour.
"I had to turn off the air conditioning while driving uphill as the three-cylinder engine was too weak," said Wang Guosheng, a taxi driver who previously drove a Xiali.
According to its annual report, the company suffered a loss of 1.641 billion yuan (257 million U.S. dollars) in 2017. The asset-liability ration reached 98.2 percent at the end of 2017.
Guan Jian from Central South University in central China's Hunan Province, said apart from the fundamental uses of passenger vehicles, additional functions are now important factors for buyers.
"Xiali and other car brands should place more emphasis on developing individual features to cater to customer demand," he said.