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China EV teardown: A $4,500 'alternative to walking'

SAIC-GM-Wuling uses cheap parts but makes them easy to replace

The Hongguang Mini EV doesn't need government subsidies to turn a profit, its maker says. (Source photo by Yuki Nakao) 

TOKYO -- At 28,800 yuan ($4,500), the Hongguang Mini EV has become a big seller in certain Chinese cities and villages. In Japan, a Nagoya University professor disassembled the electric vehicle to discover what kind of alchemy the manufacturer used to set such a low price.

Rather than wizardry, professor Masayoshi Yamamoto discovered a neat trick that SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile pulled off -- the use of cheap, not-so-durable parts put together in a way that makes them easy to replace.

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