I love funny little vans. I don't care who knows it. Funny little vans took me to India, and I think they could be key to getting more young people interested in cars. And it looks like I'm not alone, because a funny little van was, globally, GM's best selling vehicle.
According to the Polk new-vehicle registration data, the Wuling Zhiguang (Sunshine) is the world's fourth most popular nameplate, having sold 768,870 units in 2012. That's 107,545 more than GM's next closest car, the #8 Chevy Cruze. That's an awful lot of little vans.
This may come as a surprise to many Americans, who associate GM with big trucks and Corvettes and softer old-people cars. But the truth is GM's real volumes are coming from other rapidly-emerging markets, like their joint venture in China with SAIC and Wuling, the partner that gave them this glorious tiny-wheeled-box victory.
Even old Maximum Bob Lutz knows this. You can watch him explain in this video about how Americans get the sleekest, biggest, safest, most impeccably-built cars, and just getting everyone else in the emerging world on four wheels and under some kind of roof is good enough.
The Wuling Sunshine seems like a pretty appealing vehicle to me: honest, basic, and designed to be useful above all else. Even with such humble origins, it looks like you could have some fun in there: three cylinders making (I think) about 80 HP (60 KW) from about 1150 cc, roughly mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive, and I'm pretty sure a very light weight. It seems a lot like the little, fun-to drive small room I've been wanting for a long time.
I'm hoping if these things get enough success in the rest of the world, maybe, just maybe, GM will see fit to go through the considerable effort to engineer something like this for the US market. It's a long shot, I know, but, still, it's hard to say no to a best-seller.