Landwind has always been a minor Chinese car brand, yet it is also a brand that quite some car enthusiasts will have heard of. Outside China, the Landwind X7, a copy of the Range Rover Evoque, received widespread media coverage across the world. However, one decade in advance an older SUV made headlines in Europe for being one of the first Chinese carmakers to enter the European market, and for a disastrous result in a slightly fishy crash test by European national consumer motoring associations. This article will cover the eventful history of the debut model by Landwind: the X9/X6-series.
Landwind is a brand by Jiangling, a carmaker based in Nanchang, the capital city of Jiangxi Province. History of Jiangling traces back to the Nanchang Automobile Maintenance Factory in 1947, later renamed Nanchang Automobile Repair Factory and Jiangxi Automobile Manufacturing Factory. A three-wheeler went into production in 1958, and in 1966 a new truck brand called Jinggangshan emerged, named after the mountain range and city in western Jiangxi. Jinggangshan started making light trucks based on technology from the Soviet Union in the year after.
From 1984, Jiangxi Automobile started making light trucks under the license from the Isuzu Elf/N-series. In 1991 the Jiangling Motors Group Cooperation was formally established, and in 1993 the Jiangling Isuzu Motors Co., Ltd. joint-venture was created. This new joint-venture began producing the light trucks under the Isuzu TF license, and from 2002 it began selling these pick-ups under its own brand too: the JMC Baodian, which was followed by its SUV sibling Baowei in 2003.
History of the Landwind X6 & X9
Following the rise of SUVs on the international market, Jiangling established Jiangling Landwind Motor Co., Ltd. in April 1999, aiming to capture the SUV market. A new factory was constructed in 2001 for Landwind in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. This factory had an annual production capacity of 50,000 vehicles. Landwind (or by its Chinese name Lufeng – 陆风) launched the JX 6423-series in 2002. It had a striking resemblance with the first generation Isuzu Wizard three-door/Amigo and its derivatives such as the Holden/Opel/Vauxhall Frontera Sport. Considering the long history of cooperation between Jiangling and Isuzu, we can assume that Jiangling had Isuzu’s approval of producing the SUV.
Front suspension of the 4×4 is an independent double A-arm with torsion bar spring structure and rear suspension a dependent suspension (solid axle) with hydraulic shock absorbers equipped with leaf springs.
Two trim levels were offered at the time of launch, priced from 153,000 RMB, and it came in a variety of body colours, including a striking colour such as yellow. A soft top was supplied by the American soft top manufacturer Bestop, which can be removed to turn the car into a convertible. The engine was the familiar Isuzu sourced 2.8 TD engine, offered in the majority of Chinese pick-ups and SUVs at the time. A 2.4-litre petrol version was added to the lineup in 2003, produced by Shenyang Aerospace Mitsubishi, traditionally the favourite engine supplier of domestic car manufacturers. In order to show its capabilities and reinforce its image as a maker of tough 4x4s, Landwind began participating in rallies such as the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge.
A five-door (JX 6476-series), which looked similar to the five-door Isuzu MU Wizard/Rodeo and the Frontera sold by several GM brands, was added to the range in 2003. The three-door had a front end similar to the Isuzu Amigo, while the five-door had the headlights of the JMC Baodian pick-up. The release of the five-door was accompanied by the launch of a 2.0-litre engine of the same engine supplier. The SUV became more affordable, with entry-level pricing dropping to 108,000 RMB. This made it an affordable alternative to the original Isuzu QL 6470 DY produced by Qingling Isuzu.
2004 brought some modest changes to the front end, and brought the X9 and five-door SUV in line with each other. Jiangling’s subsidiary opted for bigger headlights and a bigger grille on both models. Those headlights would make their way to the JMC Baodian/Baowei too. The interior received a new, more rounded three-spoke steering wheel, replacing the old four-spoke steering wheel derived from the JMC Baodian/Baowei.
In 2005, the five-door was refreshed again and received a proper name like its three-door sibling: X6. The grille and bumpers became more angular, which combined with smoother body-coloured side claddings gave the car a more mature and modern look. The look of the taillights was revamped as well. Domestic sales for the SUVs were 7,954 units in 2005, 9,682 in 2006, and 8,245 in 2007.
The third facelift was released in 2008, which saw the implementation of an all-new interior design and a new grille. However, sales more than halved to 4,050 units that year, and were further down to 2,934 in 2009.
The final facelift of the X6 was released in 2011, with a completely revamped front end with new headlights, front fenders and side claddings, while the X9 had been discontinued. Again, the JMC Baodian and Baowei would receive the same headlights. In this form, the X6 would continue its career up until 2015.
From 2003 Landwind started exporting cars to African countries such as Algeria, Angola and Ghana. From 2005, Landwind began exporting cars to Europe, starting with the Netherlands. Peter Bijvelds, a garage owner in the Netherlands, was introduced to the brand by a Dutch entrepreneur who regularly visited Jiangxi. After acquiring a single-type approval for the car in Germany, Landwind became one of the first Chinese car manufacturers to enter the European market. Due to this novelty and the low prices, it made headlines in European media. Prices of the five-door SUV started at approximately 17,000 Euros in the Netherlands, which made it over forty percent cheaper than equivalent body-on-frame SUVs like the Kia Sorento or Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero/Shogun Sport.
Sales were poor in the Netherlands considering all the publicity the car had garnered: in 2005, 57 units were registered, and sales figures for 2006 and 2007 were 52 and 19 respectively, while the final four units were registered in the years 2008 and 2009. The car was heavily criticized in car media for its poor assembly, lack of safety features, weak engines and unsettled ride, yet it had good off-road capabilities and with its bargain pricing it simply had no equals. Even though Jiangling and Isuzu had been cooperating for two decades, it was widely claimed to be a copy of the Opel Frontera in European press.
From Frankfurt motor show to crash test
On September 13th 2005, the first press day of the IAA Frankfurt motor show took place. Bijvelds and Landwind were proudly present with a stand, and it was one of the three Chinese brands on display along with Brilliance and Geely/Shanghai Maple.
What Bijvelds didn’t know, is that months prior to the show several national consumer motoring associations, including German ADAC, Dutch ANWB and Austrian ӦAMTC, organized a crash test independent of the official Euro NCAP organization.
According to the organizations, the unusual crash test from the organizations was taken because members had questions about the safety of the car and because it was “remarkably cheap”. The results were disastrous: according to the organizations, it was the worst performing car in the 20-year history of crash tests. The driver wouldn’t have survived a situation similar to the front collision test at 64 km/h. Coincidentally or not, the results of the crash test were published during the second press day of the IAA on September 14th, which maximised media attention. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine spoke of “katastrophalen Ergebnissen” (catastrophic results). Autobild, the car magazine by German media outlet Bild, started its article about the crash test with a question phrase: “Das gefährlichste Auto der Welt?” (The most dangerous car in the world?) and said that the driver’s chances of survival were close to zero.
Bijvelds decided to send the car, now equipped with a support beam, to the TÜV (Technical Inspection Association) for a new crash test. The results of this test revealed that the car met all safety standards. However, this test was conducted at a lower speed. In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, he wondered why the ANWB said “that our car has achieved the worst result in crash tests in twenty years, while those tests have changed significantly in that time?”, suggesting an unfair assessment of the car.
In any case, the damage had already been done to the brand. Expansion plans to the rest of Europe were shelved and after just two years Landwind silently disappeared from the market. With the CV9 (Fengshang/Fashion) MPV, Bijvelds and Landwind would make another attempt at cracking the European market in 2010. This MPV and its export adventures will be covered in a later article.
Auto Bild. (2005, September 14). Das gefährlichste Auto der Welt? (The most dangerous car in the world?). Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Autobild.de
Autohome, & Wang, L. (2014, December 29). 在深层次合作中起步 江西五十铃发展史 (Started in deep cooperation: The development history of Jiangxi Isuzu). Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Autohome
Autohome, & Zhang, W. (2014, October 2). 自主硬派越野车的代表 陆风历史回顾 (A historical review of Landwind, a representative of independent hardcore off-road vehicles). Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Autohome
Automotive News, & Oude Weernink, W. (2005, October 17). Landwind in crash-test controversy. Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Autonews.com
Caradisiac, & Pagès, O. (2006). Landwind : la menace se précise (the threat becomes clearer). Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Caradisiac.com
de Volkskrant, & Douwes, D. (2005, October 7). Landwind is – met steunbalk – best veilig (Landwind is – with support beam – quite safe). Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Volkskrant.nl
Dominiak, T. (2011, November 25). Landwind 2.4 – test | Za kierownicą (behind the wheel). Retrieved 3 August 2021, from Moto.pl
FAZ.net/AP. (2005, September 14). ADAC bemängelt chinesischen Geländewagen (ADAC criticizes Chinese off-road vehicle). Frankfurter Allgemeine. Retrieved from FAZ.net
Mazur, E., & Rogalewski, R. (Eds.). (2005). World of Cars – Worldwide Car Catalogue (1st ed., Vol. 2005/2006). Warsaw, Poland: Media Connection.
Detailed test by ADAC (in German)
Detailed test by ANWB (in Dutch)
ÖAMTC crash test publication (in German)
Original press release about the crash test by ANWB (in Dutch)
Original pdf file about the crash test by ANWB (in Dutch)
Many thanks to Erik for providing additional material