THE first cars from China’s biggest vehicle exporter, Chery, is going to be released here later than expected in November. According to Australian importer Ateco Automotive, which includes ruled out adding a third Chinese brand “in the near term”.
Chery, which is also China’s largest independent car-maker, was originally supposed to become Australia’s first Chinese vehicle brand – from the first quarter of 2009 – nevertheless the global financial disaster, unfavourable exchange rates and Australian Design Rule problems have delayed its local introduction.
Great Wall Motors, which is also distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Ateco, became Australia’s first Chinese brand here a year ago, when it released two dual-cab utes that we’re joined in late 2009 by the X240 compact SUV.
Australia’s first Chinese-brand passenger cars are expected to land here in the 3rd quarter of the year, thanks to either Great Wall or Geely, which can be planning and ex-Perth model rollout from September.
Before being released nationally in four months – 5yrs after Ateco signed a binding agreement with Chery to distribute its vehicles in Australia in November 2005, now Ateco managing director Ric Hull has confirmed the first Chery models are on the verge of receiving formal ADR compliance.
“Let me be absolutely clear,” Mr Hull told GoAuto. “We are proceeding with Chery. Our compliance issues are typical but resolved and we be prepared to launch in November.”
Chery2011 J1 center imageLeft, from top: Chery J1, J11 and J3.
The 1st two Chery models sold here could be the J1, an easy-sized 1.3-litre five-door hatchback based on the Chinese domestic market’s A1, and also the J11 – a 2.-litre five-door compact SUV according to China’s Tiggo3, as we’ve reported.
The manual-only J1 will compete directly with entry-level three-door versions of your Hyundai’s Getz, which is one of Australia’s cheapest new cars but ceases Korean production October.
The Getz, which could currently be had for as little as $13,990 drive-away, will likely be joined for sale here in July by Hyundai’s newer, more upmarket – and likely more expensive – Indian-built i20.
The J11, meantime, goes head to head with Australia’s cheapest compact crossovers – including Great Wall’s X240 and front-wheel drive versions of the Hyundai ix35, Kia’s new Sportage, Nissan Dualis and Toyota RAV4 – by offering a cut-price 2WD version with automatic and manual transmissions.
Both J1 and J11 will come standard with ABS brakes, twin front airbags, alloy wheels, remote central locking, power air and windows-conditioning, while electronic stability control is also under development to the J11 wagon.
The first two Chery models will be joined in the first quarter of 2011 by the J3, a Corolla-sized small car powered by Chery’s own 1.6-litre petrol engine but initially available only as a manual.
While an inhouse-designed CVT automatic transmission will join the Australian range within months, from launch all J3s will come standard with ESC, twin and ABS side and front airbags, plus air-conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows/mirrors and remote central locking.
Mr Hull, who finalised latest product details with Chery in China last week, said he expects about 45 Chery dealers to be place by November.
“Probably the success of Great Wall has created a lot of fascination with Chery from Australian dealers,” he said.
Earlier this year Ateco owner and governing director Neville Crichton said his company would import Australia’s first Chinese electric vehicle as soon as next year, and did not rule out the possibility it may come from a brand name other than Great Wall or Chery.
Mr Hull has now eliminated a third Chinese vehicle franchise for Ateco in the short term, although that generated speculation Ateco could also end up being the Australian importer for BYD, which is among one of largest China’s largest independent car-makers and contains vowed tgo expand to Australia by 2012.
“I don’t think we’ll be involved with some other brands from the near term,” said Mr Hull. “Both Chery and Great Wall are developing EVs. (But) The timing is extremely unclear during this period.”
Asked which brand would introduce China’s first EV for Australia, Mr Hull said: “In all honestly, I don’t know”.
Although no vehicles from either Chery or Geely have received official ADR certification in Australia, a fourth Chinese brand says it remains committed to launching a small passenger car here this year. Lifan’s 520 sedan was the first Chinese cars to obtain regulatory approval, in 2008.
Chery is expected to become Australia’s biggest Chinese brand because it will target the highest-volume vehicle segments here with a range of 28 cars, people-movers, vans, utes and trucks.
Ateco is planning about 7000 Chery sales in the first full year, with infrastructure and systems planning built around coping with 50,000 sales in five years.