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Who or what is Maxus?

After establishing itself in the commercial van sector, Maxus is trying to appeal to car buyers with its range of electric utility vehicles

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It is more than likely that the average UK car buyer won’t have heard of Maxus – but they might have noticed the name on the van making their latest delivery of Amazon parcels or supermarket shopping.

Remarkably, what is today Maxus was once the commercial division of British Leyland, the nationalised UK car maker. Today as one of the former British brands snapped up by the Chinese, the brand has re-established itself on the UK commercial vehicle market and is forging a reputation for its electric vans. 

Now, Maxus is looking towards car buyers, having added a new people carrier to its range alongside a pick-up truck, with the possibility of more to come.

So who or what is Maxus?

Sports car manufacturer MG and commercial vehicle maker Leyland Trucks were both swallowed up by the conglomerate that became the much-maligned British Leyland. Today the pair are together again, among the several brands owned by another state-owned automotive giant, but this time a Chinese one – SAIC, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

In 1987, Leyland Trucks merged with Dutch maker DAF to become Leyland DAF, and this was rebranded as LDV in 1994, launching a range of vans under the model name Maxus that were built in Birmingham. After LDV collapsed in 2008, the rights to the firm were bought by SAIC, which started building LDV Maxus vans in China.

When did Maxus launch in the UK?

If you consider the company’s history then it’s been around since the dawn of motoring – the first Leyland Motors product was a steam van launched at the end of the 19th century alongside its range of steam lawnmowers!

SAIC relaunched the LDV brand in the UK in 2016, managed by the Dublin-based Harris Group. In 2020, the LDV name was dropped in favour of Maxus, which was already being used in other markets.

In terms of offering passenger cars, Maxus is a very new entrant to the UK market.

What models does Maxus have and what else is coming?

Maxis is best known for its commercial vehicle range, which consists of three different panel vans and an electric pick-up. For prospective car buyers, the conpamy has just one option right now, the MIFA 9 people carrier. The name stands for ‘Maximum, Intelligent, Friendly and Artistic’.

Launched in the UK, rather ironically, at the 2022 Comercial Vehicle Show, Maxus describes the MIFA 9 as “the world’s first full-size pure electric MPV”. Although it’s a passenger vehicle, the target audience for the MIFA 9 is the professional chauffeur market, which is currently served by vehicles like the van-based Mercedes-Benz V-Class.

This is a big vehicle, measuring some five metres long and with seven adult-sized seats, and boasts a range of up to 320 miles between charges. It’s also intended to be a top-specification luxury model with such niceties as electric sliding doors and tailgate, which probably goes some way to justifying the price, starting at around £65,000…

If you think a luxury people carrier is an odd choice for a new brand, it’s worth pointing out that both Lexus and Volvo have recently announced brand-new luxury people carrier models as well. Maybe we’re on track for a resurgence in the MPV marketplace?

At the same event, Maxus also pulled the covers off its electric pick-up truck. The T90EV is a right-hand drive version of a model already sold in China, has a two-wheel-drive powertrain and a range of close to 200 miles.

There could be more to come. Maxus has indicated it will launch at least three new EVs over the next couple of years, but has given no clue as to whether they will be vans or cars.  

Where can I try a Maxus car?

Unlike many of the new Asian brands, Maxus does have plenty of dealers. As of mid-2023 the brand had opened more than 60 outlets across the UK and is still expanding. Note, however, that most of these will be more used to van customers so a car buyer might find the dealer experience not quite what they’re used to…

What’s particularly significant about this company?

The speed at which Maxis is growing in the UK is remarkable, particularly considering the challenges thrown at the automotive industry in recent years. Harris Group opened a sparkling new UK headquarters for Maxus in Warrington in 2021 ­– less than two years later, the company has found itself replacing that facility with another one four times larger in Liverpool. Maxus registrations were up 52% in 2022 and the brand anticipates the pace further accelerating.

One aspect that separates Maxus from the clutch of other Chinese brands now targeting British buyers is that its UK operation is owned by a long-established European company focused on a very specialist portfolio of vehicles.

Some Chinese manufacturers, such as MG, have chosen to set up their own operations, while others such as Nio and GWM Ora have signed up with major dealer groups where the new models have to fight for recognition alongside established mainstream manufacturers.    

Maxus is one of the six brands distributed by Dublin-based Harris Group, all of which are commercial vehicles. Only Isuzu’s pick-ups come close to having any crossover with Maxus vehicles that might appeal to the non-commercial buyer, and Harris only handles Isuzu distribution in Ireland. 

Summary

Maxus has an established reputation in the UK commercial vehicle sector with household names such as DPD running the brand’s vans, and a rapidly growing appreciation of its electric vehicle range. In the UK car market, however, this is a virtually unknown name.

With its one consumer vehicle so far announced being a top-spec and therefore top-price people-carrier, at a time when most manufacturers have dropped their MPVs in favour of even more SUVs, it’s unlikely that Maxus will be causing many ripples among UK car buyers any time soon.    

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.